Patient perspectives on advance euthanasia directives in Huntington's disease. A qualitative interview study

BMC Med Ethics. 2022 Oct 10;23(1):101. doi: 10.1186/s12910-022-00838-0.


Background: Huntington's disease (HD) has a poor prognosis. For HD patients in the Netherlands, one way of dealing with their poor prognosis is by drawing up an advance euthanasia directive (AED). Little is known about the perspectives of HD patients on their AED.

Aim: To gain insight into patients' views on and attitudes towards their AED, and changes over time.

Methods: A longitudinal qualitative interview study using 1 to 6 semi-structured interviews over a period of maximum three years. Nine HD patients (5 outpatient clinic, 3 day care, 1 assisted living facility) who either had an AED or were thinking about drawing it up participated in this study.

Results: We identified two themes that characterize patients' perspectives on their AEDs: (1) general character of the AED; (2) uncertainty around their AED. Ad (1) The conditions that the participants described in their AED were generally not very specific for the person. Mostly they were general notions of unbearable suffering. Familiarity with HD in the family could play a role in drawing up an AED. Ad (2) Participants generally were aware of the tentative character of their AED and could have doubts concerning their own willingness or the willingness of others in the future. Sometimes these doubts were so great, that it prevented them from drawing up an AED. However, patients did not alter their AED during the follow-up period or changed in their view or attitude on their AED.

Conclusion: HD patients that draw up an AED usually describe general conditions for euthanasia and recognize that these conditions may change as the disease progresses. An AED or the wish to draw one up may be a good conversation starter for conversations about goals and preferences for future care.

Keywords: Advance care planning.; Advance euthanasia directive; Huntington’s disease; Qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advance Directives
  • Attitude
  • Euthanasia*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease*
  • Qualitative Research