End-of-life decision-making: community and medical practitioners' perspectives

Med J Aust. 1997 Feb 3;166(3):131-5.


Objective: To examine current attitudes and knowledge of the community and medical practitioners in Queensland to end-of-life decisions.

Design: Cross-sectional survey by postal questionnaire.

Participants: 387 general practitioners and medical specialists and 910 community members from the Queensland electoral roll.

Main outcome measures: Responses to five questions about end-of-life decision-making, and to legislative changes relating to such decisions.

Results: The overall response rate for medical practitioners was 67% and for community members was 53%. 78% of community members (age adjusted) and 54% of doctors thought that a doctor should comply with a patient's request to turn off a life-support system; 68% of doctors through people would still ask to have their life ended even if pain were controlled, compared with 54% of community members; 70% of community members thought the law should be changed to allow active voluntary euthanasia, compared with 33% of doctors; and 65% of community members thought that a doctor should be allowed by law to assist a terminally ill person to die, but only 36% of doctors agreed. 79% of doctors and 75% of community members agreed that people would still ask for assistance to end their lives even if optimal palliative care were freely available.

Conclusion: Community members supported greater choice and control over end-of-life decisions, while doctors were less supportive of some of the options canvassed. In a climate of community participation in health care decisions, it is important to better understand the basis and meaning of these different views. Further detailed research is recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making
  • Euthanasia / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Euthanasia / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians*
  • Physicians, Women
  • Random Allocation
  • Suicide, Assisted / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*