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Epidemiol Prev. 2011 May-Aug;35(3-4):178-87.

[End-of-life care and end-of-life medical decisions: the ITAELD study].

[Article in Italian]

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UO Epidemiologia Clinica e Descrittiva, Istituto per lo Studio e la Prevenzione Oncologica, ISPO, Firenze.



To describe the attitudes towards end of life care and the practice of end-of-life medical decisions with possible life-shortening effect among Italian physicians.


Cross sectional study (last death among the assisted patients in the last 12 months was considered).


In the year 2007, 5,710 GPs and 8,950 hospital physicians were invited all over Italy to participate in the ITAELDstudy through anonymous mail questionnaire.


Proportion of agreement with statements on end-of-life care issues. Proportion of deaths with an end-of-life medical decision.


The response rate was 19.2%. The 65% of respondents agreed with the duty to respect any non-treatment request of the competent patient, the 55% agreed with the same duty in case of advanced directives, the 39% in case of proxy's request. The 53% of respondents agreed with the ethical acceptability of active euthanasia in selected cases. Among 1,850 deaths the 57.7% did not receive any end-of-life medical decision. For a further 21.0% no decision was possible, being sudden and unexpected deaths. In the remaining 21.3% at least one end-of-life medical decision was reported: 0.8% was classified as physician assisted death, 20.5% as non-treatment decision. Among all deceased the 19.6% were reported to have been deeply sedated. Being favourable to the use of opioids in terminal patients was associated to non-treatment decisions with possible but non-intentional life shortening effect; agreeing with the duty to fully respect any actual non-treatment request of the competent patient was associated to end-of life medical decisions with intentional life-shortening effect (adjusted OR>10 in both cases).


The life stance and ethical beliefs of physicians determine their behaviour at the end of life wherever specific statements of law are lacking. Therefore education and debate are needed on these issues.

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