Nurses and the management of death, dying and euthanasia

Med Law. 1994;13(5-6):541-54.


This article is one of two which report findings of research which examined the attitudes and practices of health professionals in South Australia towards the management of death, dying and euthanasia. The focus in this article is on findings related to nurses. Conducted in August 1991, mail-back, self-administered questionnaires were posted to a sample of 500 nurses on the general nurses register held by the Nurses Board of South Australia. A total response rate of 57.8% was obtained, and 55% (278) were usable returns. The survey found that 47% of the respondents had received requests from patients to hasten their deaths by withdrawing treatment, and 30% had received request from patients for active euthanasia. 'Persistent and irrelievable pain' was the main reason for such requests. The majority either would or did discuss such requests with relatives, other medical practitioners and nursing staff. Nineteen per cent had taken active steps which had brought about the death of a patient. Eighty-two per cent thought that guidelines for withholding and withdrawal of treatment should be established. Sixty per cent were in favour of legalization of active euthanasia under certain circumstances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Euthanasia* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Euthanasia, Active*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nurses, Male / psychology
  • Personal Autonomy
  • South Australia
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Withholding Treatment