Patients' views about physician participation in assisted suicide and euthanasia

J Gen Intern Med. 1996 Feb;11(2):71-6. doi: 10.1007/BF02599581.


Objective: To elucidate the effect of physician participation in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on the physician-patient relationship.

Design: A questionnaire administered to 228 adult patients.

Setting: A university-based family practice training program.

Patients/participants: We approached 230 individuals of at least 19 years of age who were patients in the study practice. These individuals were selected on the basis of age and gender to ensure a heterogeneous study population. Of these, 228 agreed to participate and completed the questionnaire.

Results: The majority of subjects felt that a physician who assists with suicide or performs euthanasia is capable of being a caring person (91% and 88%, respectively) and would still be able to offer emotional support to surviving family members (85% and 70%, respectively). Most also felt that a physician assisting in suicide or euthanasia would be as trustworthy as a nonparticipating physician to care for critically ill patients (90.5% and 84.6%, respectively). Five percent "likely would not" continue to see their physician if it was known that he or she assisted in suicide and 7.8% "likely would not" continue seeing their physician if it was known that this physician performed euthanasia. No individuals stated that they "definitely would not" continue seeing their doctor under either circumstance. Individuals who supported the ideas of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia were more likely to think that a physician who assisted with suicide and euthanasia could perform well in the tasks noted above and would be more likely to continue seeing such a physician (p = .001).

Conclusion: Participating in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia does not markedly adversely affect the physician-patient relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Euthanasia*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Religion
  • Suicide, Assisted*