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US physicians' attitudes concerning euthanasia and physician-assisted death: a systematic literature review

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  • Law
  • Medicine


Although numerous reports exist in the literature regarding health care professionals' opinions towards euthanasia and the general public's views, few studies have conducted a systematic review of literature on physicians' views on this topic. As medical doctors are the individuals involved with active voluntary euthanasia (AVE) and physician-assisted death (PAD), their opinions need to be known. The purpose of our study was to conduct a systematic literature review of research studies regarding physicians' attitudes on euthanasia in the United States between 1991 and 2000. Electronic searches of data bases yielded 54 articles related to the topic; final count of articles fitting our criteria was 39. The results revealed a limited uniformity in the questions asked. Sample size varied from 39 to 2805. Response rates ranged from 20 to 100 percent. Most data gathering occurred from questionnaires. Physicians' attitudes favoring legalization of PAD and AVE ranged from 31 to 71 percent. Responses to the acceptance of PAD ranged from 14 to 66 percent, whereas AVE acceptance responses varied from 23 to 63 percent. Eleven to 63 percent of physicians had received requests for PAD or AVE. If made legal, about one-third agreed to participate in PAD—a lesser amount agreed to AVE. Overall, less than five percent have performed AVE, with slightly higher percentages for PAD. Physicians' opinions towards PAD and AVE varied, although with more favorable responses to PAD. Generally, these medical doctors are not prepared to perform PAD and AVE. As many physicians have been asked to participate in PAD and AVE, the medical profession needs to ensure that doctors are knowledgeable and able to respond to such a request.

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