STUDY: The Rehabilitation Centre, Ottawa, Canada, and colleagues

STUDY: TERMINALLY ILL CANCER PATIENTS FAVOR LEGALIZATION OF EUTHANASIA AND PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE
2000 SEP 19 — (NewsRx.com) — Patients with advanced stage cancer favor policies that allow euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide if pain and physical symptoms become intolerable, according to an article in the September 11, 2000, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Keith G. Wilson, PhD, from The Rehabilitation Centre, Ottawa, Canada, and colleagues surveyed 70 terminally ill cancer patients (median survival was 44.5 days) to evaluate their attitudes about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This is the first study to directly examine the attitudes of cancer patients who are nearing death, according to the authors.
They found that 73% believed euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide should be legalized — their major reasons included pain and the right to choose. The participants who were opposed to the legislation cited religious and moral objections.
Forty patients (58%) reported they might make a future request for a hastened death, if it were legal, particularly if pain and physical symptoms became intolerable. Twelve percent would have made such a request at the time of the interview. This group was different from the other participants in that they reported a greater loss of pleasure or interest in activities, they felt more hopelessness and they had more desire to die. They also had a higher prevalence of depressive disorders; however, they did not differ on ratings of pain severity.
“People who are against legalization are motivated primarily by religious or secular moral concerns, which place the sanctity of human life above other considerations,” Wilson et al. explain. “Those who are in favor of legalization are more concerned about the relief of uncontrollable pain and suffering, as well as with the rights of the individual to exercise choice and control. These are fundamental differences in the premises on which the two positions are based, which suggests that there is little common ground between them on which to reach a compromise solution.”
According to background information in the study, cancer patients are the largest group to select euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions that allow physician-hastened death (Arch Intern Med, 2000;160:2454-2460).
The study was supported by a grant from the National Health Research and Development Program of Health Canada, and by a Career Scientist award from the Ontario Ministry of Health to co-author Ian D. Graham, PhD, from the Ontario Ministry of Health.
By: Gorsuch, Neil M.; Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Summer2000, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p599, 112p
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