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Med Educ. 1996 Nov;30(6):428-33.

Voluntary active euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide: knowledge and attitudes of Dutch medical students.

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Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The objective of the study was to gain insight into the knowledge of and attitudes towards voluntary active euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide (EEDAS) of Dutch medical students, and to determine whether knowledge and attitudes change after a 1-day informative conference about EDAS. Data were collected by means of two self-administered questionnaires. Questionnaire 1 had to be completed before the start of the conference and questionnaire 2 after the conference. In both questionnaires, students were asked by means of two open-ended questions to define euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide. They were also asked to indicate which of eight statements met with the requirements for prudent practice. Finally, the students were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with each of seven statements about attitudes towards EDAS. To determine if a selection occurred among students who returned both questionnaires, their background characteristics, and knowledge and attitudes towards EDAS were compared with those who returned only the first questionnaire. Forty-seven students returned only the first questionnaire, while both questionnaires were returned by 137 students. No differences were found between students who returned both questionnaires and those who returned only the first questionnaire with regard to age, religion, knowledge of and attitudes towards EDAS. Students' knowledge of the definitions of EDAS and the requirements for prudent practice improved significantly. Students' reactions to the statements on attitudes towards EDAS showed that a large majority had a fairly positive attitude towards EDAS. There was no significant difference before and after the conference. Male students and students with a religion were more opposed to EDAS than female students and students without a religion. The fact that the students' knowledge of EDAS improved after a 1-day conference does not imply sufficient understanding of the issue. Because EDAS is allowed only under strict conditions in the Netherlands, medical students require special training. Only then will they be equipped to deal with requests for EDAS during their future careers.

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