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Omega (Westport). 2003-2004;48(1):1-21.

Attitudes toward and desire for assisted suicide among persons with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, P.O. Box 6128, Downtown Station, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3C 3J7. marie.achille@umontreal.ca


This study aimed at investigating attitudes toward assisted suicide among individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and the differences in health status (illness severity and functional disability) and psychosocial adjustment (depression, perceived stress, social support, and coping) between those in favor of and those against assisted suicide. This study also aimed at describing the characteristics of terminally-ill individuals who acknowledge contemplating assisted suicide. Forty-four individuals diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were surveyed about their attitudes and the circumstances that would make them contemplate assisted suicide and filled out standardized measures of mood, stress, social support, coping, and illness status. Seventy percent of the sample found assisted suicide morally acceptable and 60% thought it should be legalized. In addition, 60% of patients agreed they could foresee circumstances that would make them contemplate assisted suicide, but only three (7%) indicated they would have requested it already if it had been legal. Willingness to contemplate assisted suicide was associated with reports of elevated levels of depressive symptoms and reports of hopelessness. Results highlight the need to assess psychological status carefully when terminally ill individuals begin contemplating assisted suicide or voice a request for it.

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