Attitudes toward euthanasia and physician assisted suicide: A survey among medical students, oncology clinicians, and palliative care specialists

Service of Palliative Care-IOSI, Lugano, Switzerland.
Palliative and Supportive Care (Impact Factor: 0.98). 10/2006; 4(3):251-5. DOI: 10.1017/S1478951506060329
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study was to compare the results of surveys about attitudes toward euthanasia and related issues that was conducted among palliative care specialists, health care professionals of a cancer center, and first- and second-year medical students.
By means of an anonymous questionnaire with different hypothetical scenarios concerning physician assisted suicide (PAS) and related issues, 726 members of the Swiss Association for Palliative Care (SAPC), 148 health care professionals of the Institute of Oncology of Italian speaking Switzerland (IOSI), and 140 medical students of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, were surveyed.
Among palliative care specialists a decreasing number supported PAS, direct active euthanasia (DAE), DAE for psychiatric patients, DAE in incompetent patients, and life terminating acts without explicit request (LAWER). Professionals of the cancer center were more in favor of DAE and PAS than palliative care specialists, but less in favor than medical students.
Significant variations among different professionals exist in attitudes toward euthanasia. The hypothesis that familiarity with the care of severely ill and dying patients is an important underlying factor explaining variance has been confirmed by these surveys.

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    • "During palliative medicine programs at both universities, students visit palliative in- and out-patient clinics and have direct contact with patients that may decrease the percentage of euthanasia proponents among physicians and medical students [14, 15]. A total of 91 % of our students indicated a possibility of limiting euthanasia requests by the introduction of palliative care into clinical practice; for comparison, only 30–45 % of German students expressed similar views [9]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the study conducted upon completion of obligatory palliative medicine courses among 588 medical students at two universities was to compare their attitudes toward euthanasia. Four hundred ninety-two (84.97 %) students were Catholics; 69 (11.73 %) declared they would practice euthanasia, 303 (51.53 %) would not, and 216 students (36.73 %) were not sure. The idea of euthanasia legalisation was supported by 174 (29.59 %) respondents, opposed by 277 (47.11 %), and 137 (23.30 %) were undecided. Five hundred fifty-six (94.56 %) students did not change their attitudes toward euthanasia after palliative medicine courses. Students from the two universities were found to have different opinions on practicing euthanasia, euthanasia law and possible abuse which might follow euthanasia legalisation, but they shared similar views on the choice of euthanasia if they themselves were incurably ill and the legalisation of euthanasia. Gender and religion influenced students' answers. Differences observed between medical students at the two universities might be related to gender and cultural differences.
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    ABSTRACT: Although medical malpractice suits commonly occur in medical practice, few physicians experienced criminal prosecution related to adverse clinical outcomes before 1990. Criminal prosecutions of physicians increased in frequency early in that decade, however, including a handful of cases involving palliative or end-of-life care. Reviews published around the end of the 1990s examined those prosecutions, listing causative factors and offering recommendations to prevent further cases. In this paper, we provide an updated review of criminal prosecutions of physicians providing palliative or end-of-life care, presenting three cases that occurred after 1998. We summarize these newer cases' chronologies and outcomes, comparing them to cases described in past reviews. Our analysis suggests that important factors not described in earlier reviews, especially conflicting views of the standard of care in hospice and palliative medicine, contributed to the development of these prosecutions.
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