Le 14 février 2015, Christiane, la mère de Catherine Rombouts, décède en Belgique après avoir fait le choix de l'euthanasie. Atteinte d'une pathologie lourde, elle a décidé de sa mort. La photographe a suivi et accompagné sa mère jusqu'à la fin, réalisant des images de ses derniers instants. L'historienne Sophie Richelle documente le thème de l'euthanasie grâce à des témoignages et à des données chiffrées.
BACKGROUND: At the end of patients' lives, physicians sometimes provide medication with the explicit intention to hasten death. Physicians' assessment of such acts varies. We studied which characteristics are associated with physicians' classification of these acts.
METHODS: This study concerns a secondary analysis of a nationwide study on the practice of medical decision-making at the end of life. In 2015, attending physicians of a sample of deceased people (n=9,351) received a questionnaire about end-of-life care and decision-making. The response rate was 78%. We studied 851 cases in which physicians reported that the patient had died as a result of medication they had provided with the explicit intention to hasten death. Chi-square tests and logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: If medication had been provided with the explicit intention to hasten death at the explicit request of the patient, physicians considered "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" the most appropriate term for their course of action in 82% of all cases, while 17% of physicians chose the term "palliative or terminal sedation". Physicians' classification of their act as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" was less likely when patients had a short (1-7 days) or very short (max. 24 hours) life expectancy. Furthermore, such classification was less likely when their act had involved the use of other medication than muscle relaxants. The limited number of cases in which patients had been provided with medication without an explicit patient request were never classified as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life".
CONCLUSIONS: Physicians rarely classify the provision of medication with the explicit intention of hastening death as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" when patients are in the dying phase and when they provide other medication than muscle relaxants. In these cases, acts are mostly classified as "palliative or terminal sedation". This suggests that the legal distinction between euthanasia and palliative care may not always be clear in clinical practice.
Background: Over the last two decades an increasing number of countries have legalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) leading to considerable debate over the inherent ethical dilemmas. Increasing numbers of people with personality disorders, faced with unbearable suffering, have requested and received assistance in terminating their lives. EAS in people with personality disorders has, however, received very sparse attention from clinicians and researchers. In this paper, we examine the literature on the practice and prevalence of EAS in people with personality disorders to date and discuss the associated challenges for research and practice.
Methods: Narrative review of the literature combined with the authors' collective experience and knowledge of personality disorders.
Results: In six of the eight countries where EAS is currently legal, mental disorders are accepted as disorders for which EAS may be granted. In four of these countries, EAS in minors with mental disorders is also accepted. Our literature search resulted in 9 papers on the subject of EAS in people with personality disorders. These studies suggest that most clinicians who grant EAS have indeed perceived their patients' suffering as chronic, unbearable and untreatable without prospect of improvement. The majority of patients with personality disorders had tried some form of psychotherapy, but very few had received any of the relevant evidence-based treatments. The decision to grant EAS based on a perception of the patient's illness as being untreatable with no prospect of improvement, could, thus, in many cases fail to meet the due care criteria listed in EAS laws. People with personality disorders more often wish for death for extended periods of time than people without these disorders. However, there is ample empirical data to show that suicidal tendencies and behaviour can be treated and that they fluctuate rapidly over time.
Conclusions: In light of our findings, we believe that the current legislation and practice of EAS for people with personality disorders is based on an inadequate understanding of underlying psychopathology and a lack of awareness about the contemporary treatment literature. Moreover, we assert that this practice neglects the individual's potential for having a life worth living.
Importance: The option of donating organs after euthanasia is not well known. Assessment of the results of organ transplants with grafts donated after euthanasia is essential to justify the use of this type of organ donation.
Objectives: To assess the outcomes of liver transplants (LTs) with grafts donated after euthanasia (donation after circulatory death type V [DCD-V]), and to compare them with the results of the more commonly performed LTs with grafts from donors with a circulatory arrest after the withdrawal of life-supporting treatment (type III [DCD-III]).
Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective multicenter cohort study analyzed medical records and LT data for most transplant centers in the Netherlands and Belgium. All LTs with DCD-V grafts performed from the start of the donation after euthanasia program (September 2012 for the Netherlands, and January 2005 for Belgium) through July 1, 2018, were included in the analysis. A comparative cohort of patients who received DCD-III grafts was also analyzed. All patients in both cohorts were followed up for at least 1 year. Data analysis was performed from September 2019 to December 2019.
Exposures: Liver transplant with either a DCD-V graft or DCD-III graft.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcomes were recipient and graft survival rates at years 1, 3, and 5 after the LT. Secondary outcomes included postoperative complications (early allograft dysfunction, hepatic artery thrombosis, and nonanastomotic biliary strictures) within the first year after the LT.
Results: Among the cohort of 47 LTs with DCD-V grafts, 25 organ donors (53%) were women and the median (interquartile range [IQR]) age was 51 (44-59) years. Among the cohort of 542 LTs with DCD-III grafts, 335 organ donors (62%) were men and the median (IQR) age was 49 (37-57) years. Median (IQR) follow-up was 3.8 (2.1-6.3) years. In the DCD-V cohort, 30 recipients (64%) were men, and the median (IQR) age was 56 (48-64) years. Recipient survival in the DCD-V cohort was 87% at 1 year, 73% at 3 years, and 66% at 5 years after LT. Graft survival among recipients was 74% at 1 year, 61% at 3 years, and 57% at 5 years after LT. These survival rates did not differ statistically significantly from those in the DCD-III cohort. Incidence of postoperative complications did not differ between the groups. For example, the occurrence of early allograft dysfunction after the LT was found to be 13 (31%) in the DCD-V cohort and 219 (45%) in the DCD-III cohort. The occurrence of nonanastomotic biliary strictures after the LT was found to be 7 (15%) in the DCD-V cohort and 83 (15%) in the DCD-III cohort.
Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this cohort study suggest that LTs with DCD-V grafts yield similar outcomes as LTs with DCD-III grafts; therefore, grafts donated after euthanasia may be a justifiable option for increasing the organ donor pool. However, grafts from these donations should be considered high-risk grafts that require an optimal donor selection process and logistics.
Critical care clinicians strive to reverse the disease process and are frequently faced with difficult end-of-life (EoL) situations, which include transitions from curative to palliative care, avoidance of disproportionate care, withholding or withdrawing therapy, responding to advance treatment directives, as well as requests for assistance in dying. This article presents a summary of the most common issues encountered by intensivists caring for patients around the end of their life. Topics explored are the practices around limitations of life-sustaining treatment, with specific mention to the thorny subject of assisted dying and euthanasia, as well as the difficulties encountered regarding the adoption of advance care directives in clinical practice and the importance of integrating palliative care in the everyday practice of critical-care physicians. The aim of this article is to enhance understanding around the complexity of EoL decisions, highlight the intricate cultural, religious, and social dimensions around death and dying, and identify areas of potential improvement for individual practice.
BACKGROUND: Since its legalisation in 2002, the number of times euthanasia has been carried out in response to requests from adults with psychiatric conditions (APC) has continued to increase. However, little is known about why and how psychiatrists become engaged in the assessment of such euthanasia requests.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey study was conducted between November 2018 and April 2019 of 499 psychiatrists affiliated with the Flemish Psychiatry Association. Chi square/Fisher's exact tests were performed to examine if, and to what extent, psychiatrists' backgrounds relate to their concrete experiences. The answers to the open question regarding motives for (non-) engagement were thematically coded.
RESULTS: Two hundred one psychiatrists participated, a response rate of 40%. During their careers, 80% of those responding have been confronted with at least one euthanasia request from an APC patient and 73% have become involved in the assessment procedure. Their engagement was limited to the roles of: referring physician (in 44% of the psychiatrists), attending physician (30%), legally required 'advising physician' (22%), and physician participating in the actual administration of the lethal drugs (5%). Within the most recent 12 months of practice, 61% of the respondents have been actively engaged in a euthanasia assessment procedure and 9% have refused at least once to be actively engaged due to their own conscientious objections and/or the complexity of the assessment. The main motive for psychiatrists to engage in euthanasia is the patient's fundamental right in Belgian law to ask for euthanasia and the psychiatrist's duty to respect that. The perception that they were sufficiently competent to engage in a euthanasia procedure was greater in psychiatrists who have already had concrete experience in the procedure.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the majority of psychiatrists have been confronted with euthanasia requests from their APC patients, their engagement is often limited to referring the request to a colleague physician for further assessment. More research is needed to identify the determinants of a psychiatrist's engagement in euthanasia for their APC patients and to discover the consequences of their non-, or their restricted or full engagement, on both the psychotherapeutic relationship and the course of the euthanasia request.
OBJECTIVE: Advance request euthanasia and/or assisted suicide (AR-EAS) in persons with dementia is highly controversial. Results of typical public opinion surveys may not reflect the ethical and practical issues involved in the practice. We tested the impact of incorporating such issues in the assessment of public attitudes toward legalization of AR-EAS.
DESIGN: Online survey (April 27-30, 2020) of 1,711 adults recruited via CloudResearch PrimePanel, matched to U.S. population in age, sex, race and/or ethnicity, education, household income, and political affiliation. After assessing initial attitudes toward legalization of AR-EAS, respondents viewed one of six randomly assigned scenarios depicting an ethical or practical issue in AR-EAS; acceptability of EAS in each scenario as well as general attitudes toward AR-EAS legalization were then elicited.
RESULTS: Approximately 54.4% initially agreed/strongly agreed with AR-EAS legalization; agreement was associated with lower dementia quality-of-life rating, younger age, not being religious, liberal politics, and $75,000–$99,999 income range. After viewing the scenarios, a minority in each scenario arm found the AR-EAS depicted acceptable (20.7%–39.1%; p<0.0001 for all six arms, in comparison with initial legalization question response). Support (agree/strongly agree) for AR-EAS legalization after reading specific scenarios was generally lower (range 36.5%–49.3%; p=0.0002); change in support for legalization was associated with initial support for legalization, acceptability of AR-EAS in the scenarios, dementia quality-of-life ratings, and race.
CONCLUSION: Informing the public of the ethical and practical complexities in AR-EAS may have significant effects on their attitudes toward legalization. Future surveys should ensure that the public's views reflect sufficient exposure to these complexities.
Cette réédition totalement revue et enrichie contribue à une appropriation des évolutions législatives portées par la loi du 2 février 2016 créant de nouveaux droits en faveur des malades et des personnes en fin de vie (droits de la personne, sédation profonde et continue, souffrance, directives anticipées opposables, etc.). Les conditions du mourir interrogent à la fois nos obligations sociales et les exigences du soin. Alors que s'instaurent une nouvelle culture de la fin de vie, de nouvelles solidarités, quelles seront les incidences sur les pratiques professionnelles au service de la personne malade et de ses proches ? Ces situations toujours singulières, irréductibles aux débats généraux portant sur "la mort dans la dignité" justifient une exigence de clarification, la restitution d’expériences et la transmission de savoirs vrais.
Dans une approche pluridisciplinaire, cet ouvrage associe les meilleures compétences pour proposer une synthèse rigoureuse et complète des réflexions et des expériences au cœur des débats les plus délicats de notre société. Il constitue une indispensable référence à destination des professionnels mais tout autant d'un large public, la concertation nationale sur la fin de vie ayant fait apparaître un important besoin d'informations dans ces domaines à la fois intimes et publics.
BACKGROUND: Although the Belgian assessment pathway for legal euthanasia requires the engagement of at least one psychiatrist, little is known about psychiatrists' attitudes towards euthanasia for adults with psychiatric conditions (APC). This study aims to gauge psychiatrists' attitudes towards and readiness to engage in euthanasia assessment and/or performance procedures in APC.
METHODS: This cross-sectional survey study was performed between November 2018 and April 2019. The survey was sent to a sample of 499 eligible psychiatrists affiliated to the Flemish Association for Psychiatry, a professional association that aims to unite and represent all psychiatrists working in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking, northern part of Belgium. The Association's members comprise an estimated 80-90% of all psychiatrists active in Flanders. Only psychiatrists working with APC (83% of the association's total membership) were included. Factorial Anova and Chi Square tests were performed to examine if and to what extent psychiatrists' backgrounds were associated with, respectively, their attitudes and their readiness to play a role in euthanasia procedures concerning APC.
RESULTS: One hundred eighty-four psychiatrists completed the questionnaire (response rate 40.2%); 74.5% agree that euthanasia should remain permissible for APC. However, 68.9% question some of the approaches taken by other physicians during the euthanasia assessment and only half consider euthanasia assessment procedures compatible with the psychiatric care relationship. Where active engagement is concerned, an informal referral (68%) or preliminary advisory role (43.8%) is preferred to a formal role as a legally required advising physician (30.3%), let alone as performing physician (<10%).
CONCLUSION: Although three quarters agree with maintaining the legal option of euthanasia for APC, their readiness to take a formal role in euthanasia procedures appears to be limited. More insight is required into the barriers preventing engagement and what psychiatrists need, be it education or clarification of the legal requirements, to ensure that patients can have their euthanasia requests assessed adequately.
A persistent question in discussions of the ethics of advance directives for euthanasia is whether patients who go through deep psychological changes retain their identity. Rather than seek an account of identity that answers this question, I argue that responsible policy should directly address indeterminacy about identity directly. Three sorts of indeterminacy are distinguished. Two of these-epistemic indeterminacy and metaphysical indeterminacy-should be addressed in laws/policies regarding advance directives for euthanasia.
BACKGROUND: Assisted dying (AD) is currently of wide interest due to legislative change. Its relationship to other end-of-life practices such as palliative sedation (PS) is the subject of ongoing debate. The aim of this article is to describe the perspectives of a group of New Zealanders with life-limiting illness, who want or would consider AD, on the provision of end of life services, including assisted death, withdrawal of lifeprolonging treatment and symptom management with opioids or PS.
METHODS: We recruited 14 people with life-limiting illness and life expectancy of less than a year. Their mean age was 61 (range, 34-82) years and half were enrolled in Hospice. An additional six family members were also interviewed and included in analysis. We asked them about why they would consider AD if it was available. Interview transcripts were inductively analyzed consistent with thematic analysis. We compared the findings to prevailing ethical frameworks.
RESULTS: Most of the participants viewed current palliative care practices, such as pain relief with opioids and symptom management with PS, as hastening death, in contrast to some medical research which concludes that proportional therapeutic doses do not hasten death. Some participants did not agree with the 'doctrine of double effect' ('DDE') and saw such practices as 'slow euthanasia' and 'covert euthanasia'. They implied such practices were performed without patient consent, though they did not conceive of this as murder. Participants asserted that active and passive practices for ending life were morally equivalent, and preferred to choose the time of death over other legal means for death.
CONCLUSIONS: This article contributes to what is known about how patients perceive end-of-life practices that potentially hasten death. There is a divide in what medical ethics and most health professionals and what some patients consider active hastening death. Participants' perspective was consistent with a consequentialist framework whereas deontology often guides medical ethics at the end of life. Participants' challenge to the interpretation of legal end-of-life practices as AD represents an epistemic contest to the foundation of medical knowledge, authority and ethics and therefore carries implications for preferences in care, communication and palliative care practice.
BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: To explore the opinion of the Dutch general public and of physicians regarding euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey.
SETTING: The Netherlands.
PARTICIPANTS: Random samples of 1,965 citizens (response = 1,965/2,641 [75%]) and 1,147 physicians (response = 1,147/2,232 [51%]).
MEASUREMENTS: The general public was asked to what extent they agreed with the statement "I think that people with dementia should be eligible for euthanasia, even if they no longer understand what is happening (if they have previously asked for it)." Physicians were asked whether they were of the opinion that performing euthanasia is conceivable in patients with advanced dementia, on the basis of a written advance directive, in the absence of severe comorbidities. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify factors associated with the acceptance of euthanasia.
RESULTS: A total of 60% of the general public agreed that people with advanced dementia should be eligible for euthanasia. Factors associated with a positive attitude toward euthanasia were being female, age between 40 and 69 years, and higher educational level. Considering religion important was associated with lower acceptance. The percentage of physicians who considered it acceptable to perform euthanasia in people with advanced dementia was 24% for general practitioners, 23% for clinical specialists, and 8% for nursing home physicians. Having ever performed euthanasia before was positively associated with physicians considering euthanasia conceivable. Being female, having religious beliefs, and being a nursing home physician were negatively associated with regarding performing euthanasia as conceivable.
CONCLUSION: There is a discrepancy between public acceptance of euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia and physicians' conceivability of performing euthanasia in these patients. This discrepancy may cause tensions in daily practice because patients' and families' expectations may not be met. It urges patients, families, and physicians to discuss mutual expectations in these complex situations in a comprehensive and timely manner.
Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia can be debated from ethical and legal perspectives, and there are a variety of views regarding their acceptability and usefulness. Religion is considered an important factor in determining attitudes towards such practices. This narrative review aims to provide an overview of the Islamic perspective on PAS and euthanasia and explore the Islamic approach in addressing the related issues. The PubMed database was searched to retrieve relevant articles, then the references listed in the selected articles were checked for additional relevant publications. Additionally, religious books (Quran and hadith) and legal codes of selected countries were also consulted from appropriate websites. The Islamic code of law discusses many issues regarding life and death, as it considers any act of taking one's life to be forbidden. Islam sanctifies life and depicts it as a gift from God (Allah). It consistently emphasises the importance of preserving life and well-being. Therefore Muslims, the followers of Islam, have no right to end their life. All Islamic doctrines consider PAS and euthanasia to be forbidden. However, if the patient has an imminently fatal illness, withholding or withdrawing a futile medical treatment is considered permissible. From a legal perspective, Islamic countries have not legalised PAS and euthanasia. Such practices are therefore considered suicides when patients consent to the procedure, and homicides when physicians execute the procedure.
BACKGROUND: The legalisation of medical assistance in dying in numerous countries over the last 20 years represents a significant shift in practice and scope for many clinicians who have had little-to-no training to prepare them to sensitively respond to patient requests for hastened death.
AIMS: Our objective was to review the existing qualitative literature on the experiences of healthcare providers responding to requests for hastened death with the aim of answering the question: how do clinicians make sense of, and respond to patients' expressed wishes for hastened death?
METHODS: We performed a systematic review and meta-synthesis of primary qualitative research articles that described the experiences and perspectives of healthcare professionals who have responded to requests for hastened death in jurisdictions where MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) was legal or depenalised. A staged coding process was used to identify and analyse core themes.
RESULTS: Although the response to requests for hastened death varied case-by-case, clinicians formulated their responses by considering seven distinct domains. These include: policies, professional identity, commitment to patient autonomy, personal values and beliefs, the patient-clinician relationship, the request for hastened death and the clinician's emotional and psychological response.
CONCLUSION: Responding to a request for hastened death can be an overwhelming task for clinicians. An approach that takes into consideration the legal, personal, professional and patient perspectives is required to provide a response that encompasses all the complexities associated with such a monumental request.
BACKGROUND: Respect for autonomy is a paramount principle in end-of-life ethics. Nevertheless, empirical studies show that decision-making, exclusively focused on the individual exercise of autonomy fails to align well with patients' preferences at the end of life. The need for a more contextualized approach that meets real-life complexities experienced in end-of-life practices has been repeatedly advocated. In this regard, the notion of 'relational autonomy' may be a suitable alternative approach. Relational autonomy has even been advanced as a foundational notion of palliative care, shared decision-making, and advance-care planning. However, relational autonomy in end-of-life care is far from being clearly conceptualized or practically operationalized.
MAIN BODY: Here, we develop a relational account of autonomy in end-of-life care, one based on a dialogue between lived reality and conceptual thinking. We first show that the complexities of autonomy as experienced by patients and caregivers in end-of-life practices are inadequately acknowledged. Second, we critically reflect on how engaging a notion of relational autonomy can be an adequate answer to addressing these complexities. Our proposal brings into dialogue different ethical perspectives and incorporates multidimensional, socially embedded, scalar, and temporal aspects of relational theories of autonomy. We start our reflection with a case in end-of-life care, which we use as an illustration throughout our analysis.
CONCLUSION: This article develops a relational account of autonomy, which responds to major shortcomings uncovered in the mainstream interpretation of this principle and which can be applied to end-of-life care practices.
Some disability rights advocates criticise prenatal testing and selective abortion on the grounds that these practices express negative attitudes towards existing persons with disabilities. Disability rights advocates also commonly criticise and oppose physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia on the same grounds. Despite the structural and motivational similarity of these two kinds of arguments, there is no literature comparing and contrasting their relative merits and the merits of responses to them with respect to each of these specific medical practices. This paper undertakes such a comparison. My thesis is that a number of potentially significant weaknesses of the expressivist argument against reproductive technologies are avoided when the argument is used against PAS. In particular, I try to show that three common criticisms of the expressivist argument applied to reproductive technologies, whatever merit they have, have even less merit when they are used to reply to the expressivist argument applied to PAS. This is important because the expressivist argument applied to the end of life scenario does not get as much attention as the argument applied to the beginning of life scenario, and yet it has a relatively stronger position.
Objectives: Euthanasia, i.e. Physician Assisted Suicide, is a highly taboo topic, which has grown unusually over the past decade in concomitance with swift advancement in medical care of terminally ill patients. The aim of this study was to assess the knowledge, awareness and attitude of Health Professions Students (HPSs) towards Euthanasia.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was carried out in all Colleges of King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), Jeddah Campus was conducted from November & December 2019. A predesigned questionnaire written in English containing essential elements about Euthanasia was adopted to achieve the purpose of the study.
Results: A total of 522 students responded positively to the dispensed survey. 290 (55.6%) of respondents were males while 232 (44.4%) were females with a ratio of 1:1.25. We found that majority of HPSs (57%, n=298) were aware of the term euthanasia and the concept behind it. 65.1% (340) of the HPSs understood the accepted definition of euthanasia as “Physician Assisted Suicide”. However, only 19.9% (104) of HPSs agreed to ever favor euthanasia if given a choice while 47.9% (250) of them disagreed. Also, majority of them (61.4% among males and 51.7% among females) agreed that practicing religion influenced their responses to this survey.
Conclusions :The awareness about the euthanasia was fairly good among HPSs of KSAU-HS however this study identifies a dire need of introducing the bioethical concepts of practicing euthanasia and the legal issues surrounding it within the curriculum.
Euthanasia is undoubtedly the protagonist of many of the debates around the end of life both among health staff and in the general population. Considering that nurses provide care for terminally ill patients and support families and patients in their final days, it is essential to know their attitudes towards euthanasia. The aims of the study were to adapt and validate the Attitude Towards Euthanasia scale to a Spanish context, to test the dimensionality and to estimate the reliability of the scale. A cross-sectional study was conducted with a non-probabilistic sample of Spanish health-workers of 201 in a University Hospital in Ciudad Real. A self-reported socio-demographic questionnaire and the Euthanasia Attitude Scale were used for data collection. The psychometric properties of the scale were assessed, including reliability and validity using an exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. Cronbach’s alpha of the Attitude Towards Euthanasia scale was a = 0.827 and McDonald’s Omega = 0.903. The range of items of homogeneity was from 0.205 to 0.685. For the different exploratory factor analyses carried out, the Bartlett’s test of sphericity was p < 0.001 and the sample index value of Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin was over 0.802. in all cases. We present the factorial weights for three models: The first one assumes a unidimensional solution, the second model was composed by three factors and the third model was composed by four factors. In the confirmatory factor analysis, the three models presented an acceptable fit index. The Attitude Towards Euthanasia scale adaptation to a sample of Spanish health workers has shown, with some limitations, appropriate psychometric properties. There have been several differences between the original factorial solution. It would be necessary to replicate the study to reinforce the findings about the number of factors of the scale.
Objectives: Euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) of individuals with mental disorders is a growing practice in several countries, including the Netherlands. Here, we aimed to identify the most frequent dimensions of and associated factors to psychological pain, which has been associated with suicidality, in individuals undergoing psychiatric EAS.
Methods: An exploratory retrospective content analysis of the English translation of 66 digital case records of individuals who died by EAS in the Netherlands between 2011 and 2014 was performed. Nine standard psychological pain dimensions (irreversibility, loss of control, emptiness, emotional flooding, freezing, social distancing, narcissistic wounds, confusion, and self-estrangement), illness, and sociodemographic variables were evaluated by 2 independent raters using a premade data abstraction form (Kohen > 0.8 in all cases).
Results: The mean number of dimensions was 4.64 ± 1.20 (median = 5), out of 9. The most frequent dimensions were irreversibility, loss of control, emptiness, and emotional flooding, in decreasing order. Past treatment refusal and the mention of social connections in case descriptions were related to the higher number of psychological pain dimensions (4.89 ± 1.24 vs. 4.31 ± 1.07, P = 0.03 and 5.05 ± 1.17 vs. 4.43 ± 1.17, P = 0.03, respectively). Emotional flooding was the only dimension specifically associated with specific psychiatric conditions, namely posttraumatic phenomena and personality disorders.
Conclusions: Numerous psychological pain dimensions were detected in case descriptions of individuals who underwent EAS before the procedure. Subjective nature of the study precludes definite conclusions but suggest that future studies should explore psychological pain and the role of interventions targeting it in patients requesting EAS.
Background: Euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) based on a psychiatric disorder (psychiatric EAS) continue to pose ethical and policy challenges, even in countries where the practice has been allowed for years. We conducted a systematic review of reasons, a specific type of review for bioethical questions designed to inform rational policy-making. Our aims were twofold: (1) to systematically identify all published reasons for and against the practice (2) to identify current gaps in the debate and areas for future research.
Methods: Following the PRISMA guidelines, we performed a search across seven electronic databases to include publications focusing on psychiatric EAS and providing ethical reasons. Reasons were grouped into domains by qualitative content analysis.
Results: We included 42 articles, most of which were written after 2013. Articles in favor and against were evenly distributed. Articles in favor were mostly full-length pieces written by non-clinicians, with articles against mostly reactive, commentary-type pieces written by clinicians. Reasons were categorized into eight domains: (1) mental and physical illness and suffering (2) decisional capacity (3) irremediability (4) goals of medicine and psychiatry (5) consequences for mental health care (6) psychiatric EAS and suicide (7) self-determination and authenticity (8) psychiatric EAS and refusal of life-sustaining treatment. Parity- (or discrimination-) based reasons were dominant across domains, mostly argued for by non-clinicians, while policy reasons were mostly pointed to by clinicians.
Conclusions: The ethical debate about psychiatric EAS is relatively young, with prominent reasons of parity. More direct engagement is needed to address ethical and policy considerations.