The ethics of euthanasia--attitudes and practice among Norwegian physicians

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Sep;45(6):887-92. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(96)00430-3.


The ethical guidelines of the Norwegian Medical Association strongly condemn physician participation in euthanasia and assisted suicide. A previous study on attitudes towards euthanasia in the Norwegian population, however, indicates that a substantial part of the population is quite liberal. This study explores Norwegian physicians' attitudes towards and experience with end of life dilemmas. Sixty-six percent of a representative sample of 1476 who received postal questionnaires responded. They confirmed that Norwegian physicians actually seem to hold quite restrictive attitudes towards euthanasia. Seventeen percent answered yes to a question of whether a physician should have the opportunity to actively end the life of a terminal patient in great pain who requests this help, while 4% agreed that the same could be done to a chronically ill patient with great pain and a poor quality of life who otherwise would have several more years to live. Six percent of the physicians had performed actions intended to hasten a patient's death, while 76% said that they at least once had treated patients even if they had felt that treatment should have been discontinued. A multiple logistic regression analysis showed that internal medicine specialists, surgeons and psychiatrists were significantly more restrictive than their colleagues in laboratory specialties, and that physicians educated abroad and those with negative attitudes towards patient autonomy had more liberal attitudes towards euthanasia, when gender and time since graduation from medical school were controlled for.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Euthanasia*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Physicians