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Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: a systematic review of medical students’ attitudes in the last 10 years

  • Gutierrez-Castillo, Alejandro
  • Gutierrez-Castillo, Javier
  • Guadarrama-Conzuelo, Francisco
  • Jimenez-Ruiz, Amado
  • Ruiz-Sandoval, Jose Luis
Published Article
Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine
Tehran University of Medical Sciences
Publication Date
Dec 12, 2020
DOI: 10.18502/jmehm.v13i22.4864
PMID: 33552455
PMCID: PMC7839145
PubMed Central
  • Original Article


This study aimed at examining the approval rate of the medical students’ regarding active euthanasia, passive euthanasia, and physician-assisted-suicide over the last ten years. To do so, the arguments and variables affecting students’ choices were examined and a systematic review was conducted, using PubMed and Web of Science databases, including articles from January 2009 to December 2018. From 135 identified articles, 13 met the inclusion criteria. The highest acceptance rates for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were from European countries. The most common arguments supporting euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were the followings: ( i ) patient’s autonomy (n = 6), ( ii ) relief of suffering (n = 4), and ( ii ) the thought that terminally-ill patients are additional burden (n = 2). The most common arguments against euthanasia were as follows: ( i ) religious and personal beliefs (n = 4), ( ii ) the “slippery slope” argument and the risk of abuse (n = 4), and ( iii ) the physician’s role in preserving life (n = 2). Religion (n = 7), religiosity (n = 5), and the attributes of the medical school of origin (n = 3) were the most significant variables to influence the students’ attitude. However, age, previous academic experience, family income, and place of residence had no significant impact. Medical students' opinions on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide should be appropriately addressed and evaluated because their moral compass, under the influence of such opinions, will guide them in solving future ethical and therapeutic dilemmas in the medical field.

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