Background: We wished to investigate prevailing attitudes among future doctors regarding legalisation of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This issue is important, since any legalisation of these practices would confer a completely new role on doctors.
Material and method: Attitudes were identified with the aid of a questionnaire-based survey among medical students in their 5th and 6th year of study in the four Norwegian medical schools.
Results: Altogether 531 students responded (59.5% of all students in these cohorts). Of these, 102 (19%) were of the opinion that euthanasia should be legalised in the case of terminal illness, 164 (31%) responded that physician-assisted suicide should be permitted for this indication, while 145 (28%) did not know. A minority of the respondents would permit euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in other situations. Women and those who reported that religion was important to them were less positive than men to permitting euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
Interpretation: In most of the situations described, the majority of the students in this survey rejected legalisation. Opinions are more divided in the case of terminal illness, since a larger proportion is in favour of legalisation and more respondents are undecided.