Desire for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in palliative cancer care
ABSTRACT To investigate the attitudes of terminally ill individuals toward the legalization of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and to identify those who would personally desire such a death.
In the Canadian National Palliative Care Survey, semistructured interviews were administered to 379 patients who were receiving palliative care for cancer. Patients who expressed a desire for physician-hastened death were followed prospectively.
Attitudes toward the legalization of euthanasia or PAS were determined, as was the personal interest in receiving a hastened death. Demographic and clinical characteristics were also recorded, including a 22-item structured interview of symptoms and concerns.
There were 238 participants (62.8%) who believed that euthanasia and/or PAS should be legalized, and 151 (39.8%) who would consider making a future request for a physician-hastened death. However, only 22 (5.8%) reported that, if legally permissible, they would initiate such a request right away, in their current situations. This desire for hastened death was associated with lower religiosity (p=.010), reduced functional status (p=.024), a diagnosis of major depression (p<.001), and greater distress on 12 of 22 individual symptoms and concerns (p<.025). In follow-up interviews with 17 participants, 2 (11.8%) showed instability in their expressed desire.
Among patients receiving palliative care for cancer, the desire to receive euthanasia or PAS is associated with religious beliefs; functional status; and physical, social, and psychological symptoms and concerns. Although this desire is sometimes transitory, once firmly established, it can be enduring.
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ABSTRACT: An international discussion about whether or not to legally permit euthanasia and (or) physician assisted suicide (EAS) is ongoing. Unbearable suffering in patients may result in a request for EAS. In the Netherlands EAS is legally permitted, and unbearable suffering is one of the central compulsory criteria. The majority of EAS is performed in cancer patients in the primary care practice. In around one in every seven end-of-life cancer patients dying in the primary care setting EAS is performed. The prevalence of unbearable symptoms and overall unbearable suffering in relationship to explicit requests for EAS was studied in a cohort of end-of-life cancer patients in primary care. A prospective study in primary care cancer patients estimated to die within six months was performed. Every two months suffering was assessed with the State-of-Suffering V (SOS-V). The SOS-V is a comprehensive instrument for quantitative and qualitative assessment of unbearable suffering related to 69 physical, psychological and social symptoms in five domains. Out of 148 patients who were asked to participate 76 (51%) entered the study. The studied population were 64 patients who were followed up until death; 27% explicitly requested EAS, which was performed in 8% of the patients. The final interview per patient was analyzed; in four patients the SOS-V was missing. Unbearable symptoms were present in 94% of patients with an explicit request for EAS and in 87% of patients without an explicit request. No differences were found in the prevalence of unbearable suffering for physical, psychological, social and existential symptoms, nor for overall unbearable suffering, between patients who did or who did not explicitly request EAS. In a population of end-of-life cancer patients cared for in primary care no differences in unbearable suffering were found between patients with and without explicit requests for EAS. The study raises the question whether unbearable suffering is the dominant motive to request for EAS. Most patients suffered from unbearable symptoms, indicating that the compulsory criterion of unbearable suffering may be met a priori in most end-of-life cancer patients dying at home, whether they request EAS or not.BMC Palliative Care 01/2014; 13(1):62. DOI:10.1186/1472-684X-13-62 · 1.79 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Background: It is a matter of debate whether euthanasia should be part of medical practice. Objectives: The current study investigates the attitudes of bereaved family members of cancer patients towards euthanasia. Materials and methods: We conducted a survey with 211 people who had recently lost a close relative to cancer. Participants were asked whether euthanasia should be part of medical prac- tice. Two logistic regression models were calculated in order to determine the factors influenc- ing the attitude towards active euthanasia and assisted suicide. Results: About 70 % and 75 % of the respondents approved active euthanasia and assisted suicide, respectively. Religious denomination and psychological distress had a significant im- pact on the attitude towards active euthanasia. About 10 % of the deceased patients had asked for active euthanasia. Conclusions: There was no difference between bereaved family members and the general po- pulation regarding the acceptance of euthanasia. Attitudes towards active euthanasia are asso- ciated with psychological distress and shaped by cultural values rather than by the experience of end-of-life care.Zeitschrift fur Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie 12/2014; 60(4):324 - 336. · 0.98 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: In the current public debate in France about end-of-life and legalization of euthanasia, palliative care is considered as a suitable answer or an alternative or even a supplement to euthanasia. The debate is based on opinion surveys, partly because there is a lack of objective data about the incidence of euthanasia requests (ER) in palliative care settings. The aim of this study was to collect, classify and quantify the expressions of wishes to die (WD), based on computerized files for patients admitted to an 81-bed palliative care hospital (PCH) in Paris during 2010-2011. Two researchers analyzed the carers' notes extracted on the basis of containing the words "wish to die", "euthanasia" or any expressions relating to death. Notes related to WD and the corresponding patients were then classified in the order: ER, suicidal thought (ST) and other wish to die (OWD). Repeated ER were qualitatively analyzed according to a grid. We found that 195 of the 2157 patients (9%) expressed a WD: 61 (3%) expressed an ER; 15 (1%) described ST and 119 (6%) expressed an OWD without requiring acting. The WD group was predominantly female, stayed longer in the hospital (median 24 vs. 13 days), and consumed more anxiolytics and antidepressants. None of age, disease or marital status was associated with ER. More women and widows expressed an OWD. Twenty-six ER patients also expressed an OWD and two a ST. Six patients repeated their ER: all had poorly controlled symptoms with repercussions for their mental state. Our data show the existence of various expressions of WD with a low incidence of ER in a French PCH. The observation of WD including ER is suggestive of good communication between the patients and the care teams. Independent of the changeability of expressions of WD, their very existence should lead to a consideration of the dynamic changes in these WD, and to care staff paying additional attention to the individual, their suffering and the context.BMC Palliative Care 01/2014; 13(1):53. DOI:10.1186/1472-684X-13-53 · 1.79 Impact Factor