Influence of physicians' life stances on attitudes to end-of-life decisions and actual end-of-life decision-making in six countries

Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (4):247-253 (2008)
Abstract
Aim: To examine how physicians’ life stances affect their attitudes to end-of-life decisions and their actual end-of-life decision-making.Methods: Practising physicians from various specialties involved in the care of dying patients in Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia received structured questionnaires on end-of-life care, which included questions about their life stance. Response rates ranged from 53% in Australia to 68% in Denmark. General attitudes, intended behaviour with respect to two hypothetical patients, and actual behaviour were compared between all large life-stance groups in each country.Results: Only small differences in life stance were found in all countries in general attitudes and intended and actual behaviour with regard to various end-of-life decisions. However, with regard to the administration of drugs explicitly intended to hasten the patient’s death , physicians with specific religious affiliations had significantly less accepting attitudes, and less willingness to perform it, than non-religious physicians. They had also actually performed PAD less often. However, in most countries, both Catholics and Protestants reported ever having made such a decision.Discussion: The results suggest that religious teachings influence to some extent end-of-life decision-making, but are certainly not blankly accepted by physicians, especially when dealing with real patients and circumstances. Physicians seem to embrace religious belief in a non-imperative way, allowing adaptation to particular situations
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Robert H. Blank (2011). End-of-Life Decision Making Across Cultures. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 39 (2):201-214.
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