Objective: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Significance of results: 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.