Nurse characteristics and attitudes to active voluntary euthanasia: a survey in the Australian Capital Territory

J Adv Nurs. 1998 Jul;28(1):70-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1998.00775.x.


While surveys of Australian nurses' attitudes to active voluntary euthanasia (AVE) have found that the majority are in favour, there may be important differences between subgroups of nurses. This paper investigates the role of the following nurse characteristics on nurses' attitudes to AVE: age, gender, religion, amount of contact with terminally ill patients, area of specialty, and degree of interest taken in the issue of AVE. A postal survey on AVE was carried out in late 1996 of 2000 randomly selected registered nurses from the Australian Capital Territory. Responses were received from 1218 nurses (61%). The survey included a question asking whether the law should be changed to allow doctors to take active steps to bring about a patient's death under some circumstances. Overall, 69% of respondents agreed that the law should be changed. Those nurses who were more likely to agree were under the age of 40 years, agnostic, atheist or of the Anglican religion, to have less contact with terminally ill patients, to work in the area of critical care or mental health, and to take less interest in the issue of AVE. Palliative care nurses were the only subgroup without a majority in favour (33%). There is other evidence in the euthanasia literature, that nurses and doctors are less in favour of AVE than the general public. Taken together with the present findings, it can be concluded that attitudes towards AVE are more favourable in people who have less contact with the terminally ill.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australian Capital Territory
  • Ethics, Nursing*
  • Euthanasia*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Religion
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care*