Disaster Falls : le nom d’un lieu perdu – des rapides sur la Green River entre l’Utah et le Colorado. Mais le nom, aussi, d’un événement tragique. A l’été 2008, lors d’un voyage organisé, le kayak dans lequel Stéphane Gerson naviguait avec son fils Owen chavira dans ces eaux froides. Après trois heures de recherches, on retira de l’eau le corps d’Owen. Il avait huit ans.
Au croisement du récit, de la chronique et de l’enquête, Disaster Falls entretisse les émotions du père, l’analyse de l’historien et la quête de sens. L’histoire hante le livre, que ce soit celle de ces rapides depuis leur découverte en 1869 ; celle de l’expérience du deuil parental (Shakespeare, Mallarmé, Hugo...) ou celle de catastrophes collectives qui, de la Shoah au 11-Septembre 2001, interfèrent également dans ce désastre familial.
Les derniers chapitres de Disaster Falls s’ouvrent à une autre vision de la mort. Deux ans après l’accident, le père de Stéphane Gerson, atteint d’un cancer inopérable, opte pour l’euthanasie en Belgique. Après avoir perdu un fils, l’auteur accompagne maintenant les derniers jours de son père. Autre filiation, autre mort – une mort acceptée, apaisée, faite sienne. "J’étais un vivant entre deux disparus."
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.
OBJECTIVES: We examined how caregivers who had cared for a relative at end of life (EoL) wished to be cared for in the event that they experienced advanced dementia or physical disability in the future, and what factors influenced their preferences for EoL care.
METHODS: In this mixed-methods study, 83 participants, recruited from multiple sources in Israel, were interviewed concerning socio-demographic factors, health status, past experience with EoL, preference for extension of life vs. quality of life (QoL), willingness to be dependent on others, and preferences for EoL care.
RESULTS: In case of advanced dementia, 58% preferred euthanasia or suicide; around a third chose those for physical disability. Care by family members was the least desired form of care in the advanced dementia scenario, although more desirable than institutional care in the physical disability scenario. QoL was rated as the highest factor impacting preferences for EoL care. Men demonstrated a higher preference than women for extension of life over QoL.
CONCLUSION: Our study points to the need for society to consider solutions to the request of participants to reject the type of EoL experienced by their relatives. Those solutions include investing in improving the quality of life at the end of life, and offering alternatives such as euthanasia, which a large proportion of our participants found ethically and medically appropriate within the current system of care in the event of severe physical disability, and more so in the event of advanced dementia.
This study aims to extend our knowledge regarding attitudes toward euthanasia. Specifically, the effect of patient’s age and illness type. 123 participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups completed the Assessing Right to Die Attitudes (ARDA) questionnaire after reading a patients age (79 vs. 29 year old) and illness type (cancer vs. depression) description. Findings revealed more positive attitudes toward euthanasia when the patient was physically ill, as opposed to mentally ill. Participants’ attitude towards euthanasia was more positive when the patient was elderly. Illness type as a function of the patient’s age did not significantly influence attitudes towards euthanasia. The results of the current study reinforce the individual influence of illness type and of patient age on attitudes toward euthanasia, and suggest additional avenues for further research regarding their combined influence.
Assisted dying practices, which include euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), have expanded significantly around the world over the past 20 years. Euthanasia refers to the act of intentionally ending the life of a patient by a health care practitioner through medical means at that patient's explicit request while PAS involves the provision or prescribing of drugs by a health care practitioner for a patient to end their own life. The growing global aging population accompanied by higher levels of chronic disease and protracted illnesses have sharpened the focus on end of life issues and societal and legislative debates continue to address related moral and ethical complexities. Assisted dying practices are now legal in 18 jurisdictions, increasing the number of people with access to euthanasia and/or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) to over 200 million. New legislation is being crafted or considered in Portugal, Spain and 16 US states. Germany has recently overturned a ban on assisted dying services and New Zealand will put legalization of euthanasia to a vote in 2020. Assisted dying practice characteristics differ and there is also considerable variation in the terminology and labels used for assisted dying, which can add to the confusion and controversy around the practices. Frequency of use also varies greatly by jurisdiction, though a consistent increase has been seen in European countries including Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as some jurisdictions with long-standing physician assisted dying laws, such as Oregon and Washington. All assisted dying legislation includes substantive and procedural requirements, such as minimum age, waiting period, health condition, physician consultation and reporting procedure, however, some are extensive and detailed while others are more limited. As access to assisted dying expands in new and existing jurisdictions, research must also expand to diligently examine the impact on patients, specifically among vulnerable populations, as well as on health care practitioners, health care systems and communities. This article will provide a thorough investigation, or 'status quaestionis' of the terminology, evolution and current legislative picture of assisted dying practices around the globe and contribute to the ongoing ethical, regulatory and practice debate, which have become increasingly important considerations for medical practice, end-of-life care and public health.
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: Interest in the topic of termination of life has been growing for 2 decades. After legalisation of active euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) in the Netherlands in 2002, movements to implement similar laws started in other European countries. However, many people objected to legalisation on the basis of the experiences in the Netherlands and as a matter of principal.
METHODS: This selected and focussed review presents the theoretical discussions about EAS and describes the respective parliamentary discussions in Germany and the data and experiences in the Netherlands. It also considers people with mental disorders in the context of termination-of-life services.
RESULTS: So far, only a few European countries have introduced legislation on EAS. Legalisation of EAS in the Netherlands resulted in an unexpectedly large increase in cases. The number of people with mental disorders who terminate their lives on request remains low.
CONCLUSIONS: Experience from the Netherlands shows that widening criteria for EAS has problematic consequences. KEY POINTS Termination of life on request, which a subgroup of people support, is a matter of ongoing debate. Because of several problematic aspects, including ethical considerations, only a few countries in the world allow active euthanasia or assisted suicide. Even if euthanasia is well regulated, legalising it can have problematic consequences that are difficult to control, such as an unwanted excessive increase in euthanasia cases. The well-documented experiences with the euthanasia law in the Netherlands serve as an example of what is to be expected when euthanasia is legalised. We need to pay close attention to the relationship between suicide and suicide prevention on the one hand and euthanasia acts and promotion of euthanasia on the other. Further ethical, psychological and legal research is needed. In particular, the role of palliative medicine in societies' approach to end-of-life care must be explored in much more detail.
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.