Current acceptance rate of assisted suicide by nurses and doctors, for their patients and themselves

Zenz, J., M. Tryba, and M. Zenz. “Tötung Auf Verlangen Und Assistierter Suizid: Einstellung Von Ärzten Und Pflegekräften.” Der Schmerz, vol. 29, no. 2, 2015, pp. 211-6. Partial abstract below; article in German.

Background. The current debate about end-of-life decisions in Germany focuses on physician-assisted suicide (PAS). The aim is to explore attitudes of physicians and nurses with a special interest in palliative care and pain medicine using a case-related questionnaire.

Methods. An anonymous questionnaire was distributed to all participants of a palliative care congress and a pain symposium. The question was: Should euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) be allowed. In addition, the participants were asked what they wanted for themselves if they were the patient concerned.

Results. Of 317 questionnaires 70 % were returned. The general support for euthanasia and PAS was high: 40.5 % supported euthanasia in case of a fatal illness (“definitely…”, “probably should be allowed”), 53.5 % supported PAS. The support decreased in case of a nonfatal illness; however, it increased when the participants were asked about their attitudes if they were the patient concerned. Nurses were more open towards euthanasia and PAS. In physicians the rejection of PAS was directly related to a higher level of qualification in the field of palliative care.

Conclusion. The fact that nurses had a more positive attitude towards euthanasia and PAS and that all respondents accepted life-ending acts for themselves more than for their patients hints to still existing severe deficits in Germany.

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