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J Clin Oncol. 1995 May;13(5):1055-61.

Attitudes and behaviors on physician-assisted death: a study of Michigan oncologists.

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Department of Family Practice, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.



To ascertain the attitudes of oncologists toward physician-assisted death, ie, physician-assisted suicide and active euthanasia, as well as their experiences with these activities and their opinions toward their legalization.


A survey was mailed to all practicing 250 oncologists in the state of Michigan, with subsequent development of psychometric scales and their correlation with self-reported behaviors in physician-assisted death.


Analysis revealed five distinct, meaningful factors regarding approval or disapproval of physician-assisted death. These factors reflected global attitudes toward physician-assisted death, passive euthanasia, philosophical prohibitions toward physician-assisted death, concerns of legal consequences with physician-assisted death, and attitudes that physician-assisted death could be avoided with better end-of-life care (alpha = .94, .74, .76, .87, and .84, respectively). High levels of therapy withdrawal were reported (81%), with significant reservations toward assisted suicide and active euthanasia, although reported participation in such actions was noteworthy (18% and 4%, respectively). The scales reflecting global and philosophical attitudes correlated with several attitudes and behaviors toward physician-assisted death (P < .001). Legislation that would allow physician-assisted death was favored by 20.8% of respondents.


Although they have reservations about physician-assisted death, significant numbers of oncologists are willing to consider such actions should they become legal. Given the substantial number of physicians who report that they have already participated in physician-assisted death, these findings may help better understand the attitudes that motivate physician behaviors toward assisted death.

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