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Journal Articles

Attitudes and Practices of Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide in the United States, Canada and Europe.

 http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2532018 

 

Public opinion

For over four decades a majority of Australians have believed there should be a legal option of aid-in-dying for those suffering intolerably and without relief near the end of life (Morgan and Newspoll). Current support is 85% of Australians including three out of four Catholics, four out of five Anglicans, and nine out of ten Australians with no religion.

 

Medical opinion and practice

There is ample research evidence showing that many doctors favour choice in voluntary euthanasia, arguably more than oppose it.

 

1.  Kuhse and Singer surveyed 869 Victorian Doctors (1988):          
  • 62% answered yes to the question "Do you think it is sometimes right for a doctor to take active steps to bring about the death of a patient who has requested the doctor to do this?" (64% of AMA members polled said yes).
  • 93% thought such a request could be rational.
  • 59% thought that a practice similar to that in the Netherlands should be allowed.
  • 52% of AMA members thought that the AMA should change its stance on the issue.
2. Baume and O'Malley surveyed 1268 NSW doctors (1994):          
  • 59% thought actively hastening death on request was sometimes right.
  • 96% thought such a request could be rational.
  • 59% thought Netherlands practice should be allowed.
  • 52% thought their professional organization should approve medically assisted dying.
3. Stevens and Hassan surveyed 298 SA doctors (1994):          
  • 89% thought a request to hasten death could be rational.
  • 47% were in favour of legalization of voluntary euthanasia.
4. The RACGP surveyed 886 members (1996):          
  • 45% personally wished to have the option of voluntary euthanasia.
  • 56% would not be distressed if it were available to others.
  • 68% believed that euthanasia can be an act of caring.
  • 45% did not believe that "present arrangements are adequate in delivering help to the dying."
5. Steinberg et alsurveyed 259 Queensland doctors (1997):          
  • 36% thought a doctor should be allowed by law to assist a terminally ill person to die.
6. Kuhse et alsurveyed 1918 Australian doctors about end-of-life decisions (comparable to the Dutch Remmelink studies) (1997):          
  • 1.8% of deaths were by VE or physician assisted suicide.
  • 3.5% of deaths involved termination of the patient's life without explicit request.
  • in 24.7% treatment was withheld or withdrawn with the intention to hasten death.
  • in 6.5% of deaths opioids were administered with at least the partial intent to hasten death.
7. Douglas et al surveyed 683 Australian general surgeons (2001):          
  • 36.2% reported that they had given drugs in doses greater than was necessary to relieve symptoms with the intention of hastening death.
  • 20.4% reported that they had given drugs with the intention of hastening death, but without the explicit request of the patient.
  • 1.9% reported assisting with a suicide.
  • 4.2% reported having acceded to requests for voluntary euthanasia.
8. Neil et alsurveyed 854 Victorian doctors (2007):          
  • 53% of doctors support the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia.
  • Of doctors who have experienced requests from patients to hasten death, 35% have administered drugs with the intention of hastening death.

References:

  1. Kuhse H., Singer P., Doctors' practises and attitudes regarding voluntary euthanasia, Med. J. Aust., 1988, 148: 623-627.
  2. Baume P., O'Malley E., Euthanasia; attitudes and practises of medical practitioners, Med. J. Aust., 1994; 161: 137-144.
  3. Stevens C..A, Hassan R., Management of death, dying and euthanasia; attitudes and practices of medical practitioners in South Australia. J. Medical Ethics, 1994; 20: 41-46.
  4. Wilson I., Kay B., Steven I., General practitioners and euthanasia. Aust. Fam. Phys., 1997; 26: 399-401.
  5. Steinberg M.A., Najman J.M., Cartwright C.M., MacDonald S.M., Williams G.M., End-of-life decision making: community and medical practitioners' perspectives. Med. J. Aust., 1997; 166: 131-134.
  6. Kuhse H., Singer P., Baume P., Clark M., Rickard M., End-of-life decisions in Australian medical practise, Med. J. Aust., 1997; 166: 191-196.
  7. Douglas C., Kerridge I., Rainbird K., McPhee J., Hancock L., Spigelman A., The intention to hasten death: a survey of attitudes and practices of surgeons in Australia, Med. J. Aust., 2001; 175: 511-515.
  8. Neil D.A., Coady C.A.J., Thompson J., and Kuhse H., End-of-life decisions in medical practice: a survey of doctors in Victoria (Australia) J. Medical Ethics, 2007; 33: 721-725.