Format

Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Med Ethics. 2012 May;38(5):274-80. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2011-100048. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

Are general practitioners prepared to end life on request in a country where euthanasia is legalised?

Author information

1
Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University Hospital 1K3, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. maria.sercu@ugent.be

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In 2002, Belgium set a legal framework for euthanasia, whereby granting and performing euthanasia is entrusted entirely to physicians, and-as advised by Belgian Medical Deontology--in the context of a trusted patient--physician relationship. Euthanasia is, however, rarely practiced, so the average physician will not attain routine in this matter.

AIM:

To explore how general practitioners in Flanders (Belgium) deal with euthanasia. This was performed via qualitative analysis of semistructured interviews with 52 general practitioners (GPs).

RESULTS:

Although GPs can understand a patient's request for euthanasia, their own willingness to perform it is limited, based on their assumption that legal euthanasia equates to an injection that ends life abruptly. Their willingness to perform euthanasia is affected by the demanding nature of a patient's request, by their views on what circumstances render euthanasia legitimate and by their own ability to inject a lethal dose. Several GPs prefer increasing opioid dosages and palliative sedation to a lethal injection, which they consider to fall outside the scope of euthanasia legislation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Four attitudes can be identified: (1) willing to perform euthanasia; (2) only willing to perform as a last resort; (3) feeling incapable of performing; (4) refusing on principle. The situation where GPs have to consider the request and-if they grant it-to perform the act may result in arbitrary access to euthanasia for the patient. The possibility of installing transparent referral and support strategies for the GPs should be further examined. Further discussion is needed in the medical profession about the exact content of the euthanasia law.

PMID:
22233937
DOI:
10.1136/medethics-2011-100048
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

0 comments
How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Support Center