L'auteur apporte une réflexion sur l'euthanasie associant anthropologie, sociologie, philosophie, théologie, politique et éthique. Il souligne les divisions qu'elle suscite au sein des sociétés comme des familles, en raison du fait qu'elle n'interroge pas uniquement la mort mais aussi la vie et les valeurs tout en obligeant l'individu à porter un autre regard sur sa propre existence et sa condition humaine.
De plus en plus souvent, nous entendons parler d'euthanasie : que ce soit par les médias, par les politiques, par les services publics ou par diverses associations, la thématique est sur toutes les langues.
Cependant, force est de constater que le sujet est bien souvent abordé avec méconnaissance ou parti pris. Mon souhait est donc d'intervenir dans cet ouvrage pour décrire le plus fidèlement possible la très dure réalité qui entoure le processus d'euthanasie.
Non, la vie dans nos hôpitaux n'est pas - ou n'est plus - un long fleuve tranquille. Elle est en crue permanente, avec de nombreux débordements quotidiens. En tant que membre du personnel soignant, je constate combien il nous est difficile à nous, infirmiers, médecins, psychologues, assistants sociaux, de garder la tête hors de l'eau, lorsqu'il est question de ce qu'on appelle pompeusement "éthique".
Formée en France, je travaille en Belgique depuis 2015. Je suis médecin généraliste, diplômée en soins palliatifs après deux années de formation théorique et de stages. Avant 2015, j'ai travaillé en France en équipe mobile de soins palliatifs intra et extra hospitalière, ainsi qu'en unité de soins palliatifs.
L'auteur cherche à répondre à la souffrance psychique et existentielle de ses patients. Pour se faire, il utilise les théories de Viktor Frankl car ce psychiatre a consacré toute sa carrière à une recherche empirique sur le sens de la vie.
La question de l'euthanasie est un souci majeur, dans nos sociétés occidentales. Mais le débat public autour de cette question ressemble souvent à un dialogue de sourds, car il est quasiment impossible d'arriver à ce que les mots aient le même sens pour les différents protagonistes. De plus, isoler cette question de l'ensemble des interrogations sur la fin de vie n'est pas très juste. Plutôt que de continuer à débattre indéfiniment, et souvent stérilement, de ce sujet éthique brûlant, ma pratique des soins palliatifs m'a amenée à l'approfondir, par le biais d'une problématique clinique concrète, celle de l'alimentation par sonde soit en "fin de vie", soit aux "limites de l'âge et de la maladie".
Depuis l'Oregon Death with Dignity Act adopté en 1997, la dépénalisation de l'euthanasie aux Pays-Bas en 2001, puis en Belgique l'année suivante, de plus en plus de personnes demandent l'euthanasie ou en considèrent la possibilité.
Partant d'un cas particulier, nous esquisserons d'abord la problématique de l'euthanasie, pour exposer ensuite, sur la base des critères légaux, les différents points épineux de cette pratique, non seulement sur la forme, mais aussi sur le fond.
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En 2015, un long article dans le prestigieux The New Yorker a de nouveau attiré l'attention sur la pratique de l'euthanasie en Belgique, et particulièrement en Flandre. La journaliste Rachel Aviv y donne la parole à trois personnes : chacune, de façon abrupte et tragique, a perdu sa mère par euthanasie. La journaliste cite également quelques réactions des médecins concernés, et interroge des intellectuels faisant autorité dans notre pays. Rachel Aviv ne condamne pas, elle enregistre, observe, donne ses impressions et montre beaucoup d'empathie pour ces personnes profondément blessées. Ce récit touchant confirme ce que bon nombre de Belges savent déjà : l'expérimentation sociale de l'euthanasie, suite à la loi de 2002, n'est pas le récit à succès auquel certains voudraient nous faire croire.
Je travaille comme cancérologue depuis 1984, et j'ai vécu l'explosion des possibilités thérapeutiques. En prenant soin de mes semblables, j'ai appris à reconnaître l'efficacité et l'étendue de mes interventions, mais aussi leurs limites, étroitement liées à la réalité de la condition humaine, si riche mais naturellement limitée. Le médecin, oeuvrant pour le bien-être physique, psychologique, social et spirituel de la personne malade qui s'adresse à lui, est là pour se battre, à ses côtés, contre le mal et la souffrance, avec détermination, persévérance, humilité et patience.
J'ai professé, en tant qu'infirmier, pendant plus de 20 ans en service d'oncologie, puis de soins palliatifs. Enseignant et psychothérapeute depuis 10 ans, j'ai la chance de continuer de travailler avec des étudiants infirmiers dans des services de soins palliatifs et de psychiatrie, ainsi que de superviser des équipes de soins. Ethicien de formation, je fais partie d'un comité d'éthique dans un hôpital neuropsychiatrique. Ces différentes casquettes me donnent le grand privilège de rencontrer à la fois des patients en fin de vie ou souffrant de troubles psychiques, des soignants et des étudiants confrontés à des situations difficiles, et de relire, en comité d'éthique, des situations cliniques de grande souffrance.
La question de l'euthanasie est très régulièrement évoquée et suscite de nombreux débats, aussi passionnels que passionnants.
Nous ferons d'abord dans ce chapitre un travail de précision sémantique qui apparaît nécessaire avant d'entrer dans le questionnement sur le suicide. Nous aborderons ensuite la question du rapport entre maladie grave et suicide, puis entre fin de vie et suicide et enfin entre suicide et soins palliatifs. Nous mènerons une réflexion spécifique sur le suicide à la fin de la vie des personnes âgées tant cette question doit être traitée spécifiquement.
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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.
Current efforts to legalize medical aid-in-dying in this country follow a half century of remarkable legal developments regarding when, how, and on whose terms to intervene to prevent death and extend life in critically and terminally ill patients. The starting point-which I call the first stage along the path-was the creation in the two decades following World War II of powerful means of keeping very ill, and typically unconscious, patients alive. The second stage began in the late 1960s as physicians (and then others in society) began to grapple with the consequences of maintaining such patients on life-support indefinitely. Over five decades, judicial decisions, followed by implementing statutes and regulations, transformed legal rights and medical practices. Are the current developments-which center on legalizing medical aid-in-dying-a third stage along the same path, or do the striking differences between the issues raised about life-sustaining treatment and euthanasia suggest that they are separate? What lessons might those proceeding along the aid-in-dying path take from the development of the other path, and if the two paths are still distinct today, might they merge in the future?
Euthanasia or assisted dying (EAD) remains a highly contentious issue internationally. Although polls report that a majority New Zealanders support EAD, there are concerns about the framing of the polling questions, and that those responding to the questions do not know enough about the situations described, the options available and the potential implications of EAD policy. One way to address these concerns is through a citizens' jury, which is a method of learning how a group of people view an issue following informed deliberation. This citizens' jury was conducted to learn whether a group of 15 New Zealanders thought the law should be changed to allow some form of EAD and the reasons for their view, having been informed about the issue, heard arguments for and against, and having deliberated together. The jury met for two and a half days. They did not reach a consensus, but become polarized in their positions, with several changing their positions to either strong opposition or strong support. The reasons why people support or oppose EAD were not reducible to particular principles or arguments, but reflected an integrated assessment of a range of considerations, informed by personal priorities and experiences. These results suggest that views on EAD may change in response to informed deliberation that the EAD debate involves a range of value judgments and is not likely to be resolved through deliberation alone. These results may inform international debate on EAD policy.
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.
Objectives: Prevalence rates of death by euthanasia (EUT) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have increased among older adults, and public debates on these practices are still taking place. In this context, it seemed important to conduct a systematic review of the predictors (demographic, physical health, psychological, social, quality of life, religious, or existential) associated with attitudes toward, wishes and requests for, as well as death by EUT/PAS among individuals aged 60 years and over.
Method: The search for quantitative studies in PsycINFO and MEDLINE databases was conducted three times from February 2016 until April 2018. Articles of probable relevance (n = 327) were assessed for eligibility. Studies that only presented descriptive data (n = 306) were excluded.
Results: This review identified 21 studies with predictive analyses, but in only 4 did older adults face actual end-of-life decisions. Most studies (17) investigated attitudes toward EUT/PAS (9 through hypothetical scenarios). Younger age, lower religiosity, higher education, and higher socio-economic status were the most consistent predictors of endorsement of EUT/PAS. Findings were heterogeneous with regard to physical health, psychological, and social factors. Findings were difficult to compare across studies because of the variety of sample characteristics and outcomes measures.
Conclusion: Future studies should adopt common and explicit definitions of EUT/PAS, as well as research designs (e.g. mixed longitudinal) that allow for better consideration of personal, social, and cultural factors, and their interplay, on EUT/PAS decisions.
On 11 September 2019, the verdict was read in the first prosecution of a doctor for euthanasia since the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act of 2002 was installed in the Netherlands. The case concerned euthanasia on the basis of an advance euthanasia directive (AED) for a patient with severe dementia. In this paper we describe the review process for euthanasia cases in the Netherlands. Then we describe the case in detail, the judgement of the Regional Review Committees for Termination of Life on Request and Euthanasia (RTE) and the judgement of the medical disciplinary court. Both the review committees and the disciplinary court came to the conclusion there were concerns with this case, which mainly hinged on the wording of the AED. They also addressed the lack of communication with the patient, the absence of oral confirmation of the wish to die and the fact that the euthanasia was performed without the patient being aware of this. However, the doctor was acquitted by the criminal court as the court found she had in fact met all due care criteria laid down in the act. We then describe what this judgement means for euthanasia in the Netherlands. It clarifies the power and reach of AEDs, it allows taking conversations with physicians and the testimony of the family into account when interpreting the AED. However, as a practical consequence the prosecution of this physician has led to fear among doctors about prosecution after euthanasia.
Background: Debate about appropriate and ethically acceptable end-of-life choices is ongoing, which includes discussion about the legalization of voluntary assisted dying. Given health professionals’ role in caring for patients at the end life, their stance towards assisting a person with dying can have implications for policy development and implementation in jurisdictions where law changes are being considered.
Aim: To explore end-of-life care professionals’ attitudes towards voluntary assisted dying 6 months prior to vote on legalization.
Design: Qualitative study using textual data collected through semi-structured interviews. Purposive sampling strategy used to collect a broad representation of perspectives. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and subjected to qualitative descriptive analysis techniques.
Participants: A total of 16 health professionals with experience in caring for people with life-limiting illness.
Results: Participants reported two overarching positions grounded in differing moral philosophies with compelling arguments both for and against legalization of voluntary assisted dying. A third and common line of argument emerged from areas of shared concern and uncertainty about the practical consequences of introducing voluntary assisted dying. While a diversity of opinion was evident, all participants advocated for more public education and funding into end-of-life care services to make high-quality care equitable and widely available.
Conclusion: Common dedication to reducing suffering and facilitating good dying experiences exists among experts despite their divergent views on voluntary assisted dying. Ongoing engagement with stakeholders is needed for practical resolution in the interest of developing health policy for best patient care.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To explore how Flemish nurses working in hospitals and home care experience their involvement in the care of patients requesting euthanasia 15 years after the legalisation of euthanasia.
BACKGROUND: Euthanasia was legalised in Belgium in 2002. Despite prior research that charted the experiences of nurses in euthanasia care before and right after legalisation in Belgium, it remains unclear how Flemish nurses currently, 15 years after the legalisation, experience their involvement.
DESIGN: A grounded theory design, using semi-structured in-depth interviews.
METHODS: We interviewed 26 nurses working in hospitals or in home care, who had experience with caring for patients requesting euthanasia. Data were collected using a purposive sample and then a snowball sample. Data collection and data analysis were conducted simultaneously. Data were analysed by using the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven. The study adhered to the COREQ guidelines.
RESULTS: Caring for a patient requesting euthanasia continues to be an intense experience characterized by ambivalence. The nature of euthanasia itself contributes to the intensity of this care process. The nurses described euthanasia as something unnatural and planned that generated many questions and doubts. Nevertheless, most interviewees stated that they were able to contribute to a dignified end of life and make a difference, giving them a profound feeling of professional fulfilment. However, when nurses were not able to contribute to good euthanasia care, they struggled with strong negative feelings and frustrations.
CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Although the results suggest some subtle shifts in nurses' experiences over time, they do not indicate perceptions of euthanasia as a normal practice by the nurses involved. Research on the perceptions of nurses who have strong negative experiences or conscientious objections is needed to further clarify nurses' ethical positions on euthanasia care.
My essay 'Weakening the ethical distinction between euthanasia, palliative opioid use and palliative sedation' has recently generated some critique which I will attempt to address in this response. Regarding the empirical question of whether palliative opioid and sedative use shorten survival time, Schofield et al raise the three concerns that my literature review contains a cherry-picking bias through focusing solely on the palliative care population, that continuous deep palliative sedation falls beyond the scope of routine palliative care, and that my research may contribute to opiophobia and be harmful to palliative care provision globally. Materstvedt argues that euthanasia 'ends' rather than 'relieves' suffering and is not a treatment, and that the arguments in my essay are therefore predicated on a 'category mistake' and are a non-starter. Symons and Giebel both raise the concern that my Kantian and Millian interpretation of the Doctrine of Double Effect is anachronistic, and that when interpreted from the contemporaneous perspective of Aquinas it is a sound ethical principle. Giebel also argues that palliative opioid and sedative use do meet the Doctrine of Double Effect's four criteria on this Thomistic account, and that it does not contradict the Doctrine of the Sanctity of Human Life. In this response I will explore and defend against most of these claims, in doing so clarifying my original argument that the empirical and ethical differences between palliative opioid/sedative use and euthanasia may not be as significant as often believed, thereby advancing the case for euthanasia.