Attitudes of health care professionals, relatives of advanced cancer patients and public towards euthanasia and physician assisted suicide

Health Policy. 2010 Oct;97(2-3):160-5. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.04.008. Epub 2010 May 21.


Objectives: Nowadays, euthanasia has the meaning of the direct administration of a lethal agent to the patient by another party with a merciful intent after patients' request. Physician assisted suicide refers to the patient intentionally and wilfully ending his or her own life with the assistance of a physician. The objectives of the manuscript were to investigate the opinions of Greek physicians, nurses, lay people and relatives of advanced cancer patients on euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.

Methods: The final sample consisted of 215 physicians, 250 nurses, 218 relatives and 246 lay people. A survey questionnaire was used concerning issues such as euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. The survey instrument included 13 questions and described issues such as religious and spiritual beliefs, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide and decision-making situations.

Results: 43.3% physicians and 41.3% relatives would agree in advance that in case of heart and/or respiratory arrest there would not be an effort to revive a terminally ill cancer patient. 20.5% physicians had a request for euthanasia. Significant associations were found between physicians (9.3%), relatives (1.8%, p=0.001) and lay people (3.7%, p=0.020) on their opinions regarding withdrawing treatment.

Conclusions: The majority of the participants were opposed to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. However many would agree to the legalization of an advanced cancer patient's hastened death.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Euthanasia* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Family
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms
  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Suicide, Assisted* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Terminally Ill
  • Withholding Treatment* / legislation & jurisprudence