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Requests for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and the availability and application of palliative options

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2006

MARIJKE C. JANSEN-VAN DER WEIDE,
Affiliation:
Department of Public and Occupational Health and Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
BREGJE D. ONWUTEAKA-PHILIPSEN
Affiliation:
Department of Public and Occupational Health and Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
GERRIT VAN DER WAL
Affiliation:
Department of Public and Occupational Health and Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract

Objective: This study investigated the palliative options available when a patient requested euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (EAS), the extent to which the options were applied, and changes in the patient's wishes.

Methods: In an observational study, 3614 general practitioners (GPs) filled in a questionnaire and described their most recent request for EAS (if any) (n = 1,681).

Results: Palliative options were still available in 25% of cases. In these cases options were applied in 63%; in 46% of these cases patients withdrew their request. Medication other than antibiotics, which was most frequently mentioned as a palliative option (67%), and applied most frequently (79%), together with radiotherapy, most frequently resulted in patients withdrawing their request.

Significance of results: GPs include the availability of palliative options in their decision making when considering EAS. The fact that not all options are applied or, if applied, the patient persists in the request is related to autonomy of the patient, the burden on the patient, and medical futility of the option.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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