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.
BACKGROUND: In the Netherlands, Foundation De Einder offers counselling to people who wish to be able to self-determine the timing and manner of their end of life.
AIM: This study explores the experiences with counselling that counselees receive(d) from counsellors facilitated by Foundation De Einder.
METHODS: Open coding and inductive analysis of in-depth interviews with 17 counselees.
RESULTS: Counselling ranged from solely receiving information about lethal medication to combining this with psychological counselling about matters of life and death, and the effects for close ones. Counselees appreciated the availability of the counsellor, their careful and open attitude, feeling respected and being reminded about their own responsibility. Some counselees felt dependent on the counsellor, or questioned their competency. Most counselees collected lethal medication. This gave them peace of mind and increased their quality of life, but also led to new concerns. Few were inclined to use their self-collected medication. Counselling contributed to thinking about if, when and how counselees would like to end their life.
CONCLUSION: Having obtained means to end their lives can offer people feelings of reassurance, which can increase their quality of life, but can also give rise to new concerns. Next to providing information on (collecting) lethal medication, counsellors can play an important role by having an open non-judgemental attitude, providing trustworthy information and being available. These positively valued aspects of counselling are also relevant for physicians taking care of patients who wish to self-determine the timing and manner of their end of life.
Background: Physicians who receive a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide may experience a conflict of duties: the duty to preserve life on the one hand and the duty to relieve suffering on the other hand. Little is known about experiences of physicians with receiving and granting a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide. This study, therefore, aimed to explore the concerns, feelings and pressure experienced by physicians who receive requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Methods: In 2016, a cross-sectional study was conducted. Questionnaires were sent to a random sample of 3000 Dutch physicians. Physicians who had been working in adult patient care in the Netherlands for the last year were included in the sample (n = 2657). Half of the physicians were asked about the most recent case in which they refused a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide, and half about the most recent case in which they granted a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Results: Of the 2657 eligible physicians, 1374 (52%) responded. The most reported reason not to participate was lack of time. Of the respondents, 248 answered questions about a refused euthanasia or assisted suicide request and 245 about a granted EAS request. Concerns about specific aspects of the euthanasia and assisted suicide process, such as the emotional burden of preparing and performing euthanasia or assisted suicide were commonly reported by physicians who refused and who granted a request. Pressure to grant a request was mostly experienced by physicians who refused a request, especially if the patient was =80 years, had a life-expectancy of =6 months and did not have cancer. The large majority of physicians reported contradictory emotions after having performed euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Conclusions: Society should be aware of the impact of euthanasia and assisted suicide requests on physicians. The tension physicians experience may decrease their willingness to perform euthanasia and assisted suicide. On the other hand, physicians should not be forced to cross their own moral boundaries or be tempted to perform euthanasia and assisted suicide in cases that may not meet the due care criteria.
BACKGROUND: Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) in psychiatry are permitted in the Netherlands under certain legal conditions. Doctors may help patients who suffer unbearably and who have no prospect of improvement from psychiatric illnesses. Although this practice is permitted, it remains controversial, and the acceptability of EAS and the conditions under which it should be allowed are still debated. As the number of psychiatric patients requesting EAS is increasing, Dutch psychiatrists are becoming more reluctant to consider EAS.
OBJECTIVE: This study aims for a better understanding of Dutch psychiatrists' considerations for supporting or rejecting EAS for psychiatric patients.
METHODS: The data for this qualitative study were collected through 17 in-depth interviews with Dutch psychiatrists. These interviews were held from January until June 2016 as a part of the Third Evaluation of the Dutch Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act.
RESULTS: Irrespective of their own position in the debate, most Dutch psychiatrists consider reasons for and against EAS, including moral (justice and equality, professional responsibility, compassion), epistemologic (how can one ever know the suffering is without prospect), practical, and contextual (mental health care provisions) reasons.
CONCLUSIONS: The variation in views on EAS in psychiatry seems to be related to a difference in views on the nature of psychiatric diseases. Some psychiatrists stress the similarity between psychiatric and somatic diseases, whereas others stress the fundamental difference. These opposing views could be bridged by a pragmatic view, such as a 2-track approach to EAS.
BACKGROUND: Although euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) in people with psychiatric disorders is relatively rare, the increasing incidence of EAS requests has given rise to public and political debate. This study aimed to explore support of the public and physicians for euthanasia and assisted suicide in people with psychiatric disorders and examine factors associated with acceptance and conceivability of performing EAS in these patients.
METHODS: A survey was distributed amongst a random sample of Dutch 2641 citizens (response 75%) and 3000 physicians (response 52%). Acceptance and conceivability of performing EAS, demographics, health status and professional characteristics were measured. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Of the general public 53% were of the opinion that people with psychiatric disorders should be eligible for EAS, 15% was opposed to this, and 32% remained neutral. Higher educational level, Dutch ethnicity, and higher urbanization level were associated with higher acceptability of EAS whilst a religious life stance and good health were associated with lower acceptability. The percentage of physicians who considered performing EAS in people with psychiatric disorders conceivable ranged between 20% amongst medical specialists and 47% amongst general practitioners. Having received EAS requests from psychiatric patients before was associated with considering performing EAS conceivable. Being female, religious, medical specialist, or psychiatrist were associated with lower conceivability. The majority (> 65%) of the psychiatrists were of the opinion that it is possible to establish whether a psychiatric patient’s suffering is unbearable and without prospect and whether the request is well-considered.
CONCLUSION: The general public shows more support than opposition as to whether patients suffering from a psychiatric disorder should be eligible for EAS, even though one third of the respondents remained neutral. Physicians' support depends on their specialization; 39% of psychiatrists considered performing EAS in psychiatric patients conceivable. The relatively low conceivability is possibly explained by psychiatric patients often not meeting the eligibility criteria.
BACKGROUND: The medical-ethical dilemmas related to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (EAS) in psychiatric patients are highly relevant in an international context. EAS in psychiatric patients appears to become more frequent in the Netherlands. However, little is known about the experiences of psychiatrists with this practice. This study aims to estimate the incidence of EAS (requests) in psychiatric practice in The Netherlands and to describe the characteristics of psychiatric patients requesting EAS, the decision-making process and outcomes of these requests.
METHODS: In the context of the third evaluation of the Dutch Euthanasia Act, a cross-sectional study was performed between May and September 2016. A questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 500 Dutch psychiatrists. Of the 425 eligible psychiatrists 49% responded. Frequencies of EAS and EAS requests were estimated. Detailed information was asked about the most recent case in which psychiatrists granted and/or refused an EAS request, if any.
RESULTS: The total number of psychiatric patients explicitly requesting for EAS was estimated to be between 1100 and 1150 for all psychiatrists in a one year period from 2015 to 2016. An estimated 60 to 70 patients received EAS in this period. Nine psychiatrists described a case in which they granted an EAS request from a psychiatric patient. Five of these nine patients had a mood disorder. Three patients had somatic comorbidity. Main reasons to request EAS were 'depressive feelings' and 'suffering without prospect of improvement'. Sixty-six psychiatrists described a case in which they refused an EAS request. 59% of these patients had a personality disorder and 19% had somatic comorbidity. Main reasons to request EAS were 'depressive feelings' and 'desperate situations in several areas of life'. Most requests were refused because the due care criteria were not met.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the incidence of EAS in psychiatric patients increased over the past two decades, this practice remains relatively rare. This is probably due to the complexity of assessing the due care criteria in case of psychiatric suffering. Training and support may enable psychiatrists to address this sensitive issue in their work better.
BACKGROUND: Recently, euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) in patients with psychiatric disorders, dementia, or an accumulation of health problems has taken a prominent place in the public debate. However, limited is known about this practice. The purpose of this study was threefold: to estimate the frequency of requesting and receiving EAS among people with (also) a psychiatric disorder, dementia, or an accumulation of health problems; to explore reasons for physicians to grant or refuse a request; and to describe differences in characteristics, including the presence of psychiatric disorders, dementia, and accumulation of health problems, between patients who did and did not request EAS and between patients whose request was or was not granted.
METHODS: A nationwide cross-sectional survey study was performed. A stratified sample of death certificates of patients who died between 1 August and 1 December 2015 was drawn from the central death registry of Statistics Netherlands. Questionnaires were sent to the certifying physician (n = 9351, response 78%). Only deceased patients aged = 17 years and who died a non-sudden death were included in the analyses (n = 5361).
RESULTS: The frequency of euthanasia requests among deceased people who died non-suddenly and with (also) a psychiatric disorder (11.4%), dementia (2.1%), or an accumulation of health problems (8.0%) varied. Factors positively associated with requesting euthanasia were age (< 80 years), ethnicity (Dutch/Western), cause of death (cancer), attending physician (general practitioner), and involvement of a pain specialist or psychiatrist. Cause of death (neurological disorders, another cause) and attending physician (general practitioner) were also positively associated with receiving euthanasia. Psychiatric disorders, dementia, and/or an accumulation of health problems were negatively associated with both requesting and receiving euthanasia.
CONCLUSIONS: EAS in deceased patients with psychiatric disorders, dementia, and/or an accumulation of health problems is relatively rare. Partly, this can be explained by the belief that the due care criteria cannot be met. Another explanation is that patients with these conditions are less likely to request EAS.
BACKGROUND: End-of-life conversations are rarely initiated by care staff in long-term care facilities. A possible explanation is care staff's lack of self-efficacy in such conversations. Research into the determinants of self-efficacy for nurses and care assistants in end-of-life communication is scarce and self-efficacy might differ between care staff of mental health facilities, nursing homes, and care homes. This study aimed to explore differences between care staff in mental health facilities, nursing homes, and care homes with regard to knowledge about palliative care, time pressure, and self-efficacy in end-of-life communication, as well as aiming to identify determinants of high self-efficacy in end-of-life communication.
METHODS: Two cross-sectional Dutch studies, one in mental health facilities and one in nursing and care homes (PACE study). Nurses and care assistants were invited to complete a questionnaire in 2015. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to identify determinants of high self-efficacy.
RESULTS: Five hundred forty one nurses and care assistants completed a survey; 137 worked in mental health facilities, 172 in nursing homes, and 232 in care homes. Care staff at mental health facilities were the most knowledgeable about the World Health Organization’s definition of palliative care: 76% answered 4–5 out of 5 items correctly compared to 38% of nursing home staff and 40% of care home staff (p < 0.001). Around 60% of care staff in all settings experienced time pressure. Care staff had high self-efficacy regarding end-of-life communication with patients: the overall mean score across all facilities was 5.47 out of 7 (standard deviation 1.25). Determinants of high self-efficacy were working in a mental health facility, age > 36, female, with formal palliative care training, and knowledge of the palliative care definition.
CONCLUSION: Mental healthcare staff knew more about palliative care and had higher self-efficacy in end-of-life communication compared to nursing and care home staff. Educating care staff about providing palliative care and training them in it might improve end-of-life communication in these facilities.