Palliative care, assisted suicide and euthanasia: nationwide questionnaire to Swedish physicians

Valverius, E.; Nilstun, T.; Nilsson, B.
March 2000
Palliative Medicine;Mar2000, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p141
Academic Journal
The objective of this study was to investigate what actually happens between physicians and adult patients in difficult end-of-life situations. We circulated an anonymous questionnaire to a randomized sample of 952 Swedish physicians registered in specialties comprising care of dying adult patients, 122 palliative care physicians, and 130 physicians from the Swedish Association for the Study of Pain. Of special interest were themes in conversations between the physicians and the patients, desires expressed by the patients, and actions performed by the physicians that might affect the patients' expected survival. The overall response rate was 79%. Of these, 63% of the randomized physicians, 95% of the palliative care physicians, and 43% of the Association for the Study of Pain physicians had more than occasionally treated dying adult patients during the past year. About half of them had discussed palliative care with all their dying patients, and more than half of the physicians had heard their patients expressing a wish to die. About one-third of all the physicians had given analgesic or other drugs in such doses that some of their patients' deaths were hastened. The same proportion had also been asked for active euthanasia, while 10% had been asked to assist suicide. No case of euthanasia and only a few cases of assisted suicide were reported. By implication, the study suggests that improving patients' awareness of the possibilities to relieve pain, anxiety and dyspnoea during the final days of life is an important way to reduce requests for active euthanasia.


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