In November of 2019, New Zealand's Parliament enacted the End of Life Choice Act 2019 (NZ) to authorise the administration of a lethal dose of medication to competent adults suffering from a terminal illness likely to end his or her life within six months, should they directly and voluntarily request it. However, before this legislation can enter into force, it must be approved by a majority of voters at a referendum held at the next general election. This article traces how the End of Life Choice Act 2019 came to be enacted and examines the existing data on public opinion in order to provide a cautious prediction as to that referendum vote's likely result.
Current debates about assisted dying and assisted suicide cover a series of medical, legal, moral, ethical and religious aspects. Yet, public views on the subject remain underexplored and, therefore, not always accounted for in the formation of public policy. This paper reports on empirical data from a cross-sectional study in the UK in 2019, which examines public views about the legalisation of assisted dying and assisted suicide, by means of a self-administered Qualtrics-based survey (self-devised vignettes). A combination of simple random and convenience sampling was used. Participants (n = 297) state their preference that both assisted dying and assisted suicide should be legalised in the UK (n = 70%), while doctors should be legally allowed to support such wishes of patients with an incurable and painful illness from which they will die (n = 62.22%). The paper concludes that public opinion needs to be further accounted for in policymaking and discourses regarding patient autonomy and dignity of care.
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: Although access to advance care planning (ACP), palliative care, and hospice has increased, public attitudes may still be barriers to their optimal use.
Purpose: To synthesize empirical research from disparate sources that describes public perceptions of ACP, palliative care, and hospice in ways that could inform public messaging.
Data Sources: Searches of PubMed and other databases were made from January 2011 to January 2020.
Study Selection: Studies reporting survey or interview data with the public that asked specifically about awareness and attitudes toward ACP, palliative care, or hospice were included.
Data Extraction and Synthesis: Two reviewers independently screened citations, read full texts, and performed data abstraction. Twelve studies met inclusion criteria and included >9800 participants. For ACP, 80% to 90% of participants reported awareness, and a similar proportion considered it important, but only 10% to 41% reported having named a proxy or completed a written document. For palliative care, 66% to 71% of participants reported no awareness of palliative care, and those who reported awareness often conflated it with end-of-life care. However, after being prompted with a tested definition, 95% rated palliative care favorably. For hospice, 86% of participants reported awareness and 70% to 91% rated it favorably, although 37% held significant misconceptions.
Limitations: A limited number of studies met inclusion criteria, and some were published in nonpeer reviewed sources. The studies reflect public perceptions pre-COVID-19.
Conclusion: Consumer perceptions of ACP, palliative care, and hospice each have a distinct profile of awareness, perceptions of importance, and reports of action taking, and these profiles represent three different challenges for public messaging.
Background: A better understanding of differences between the preferences of the general public and the recommendations of healthcare providers with regard to end-of-life (EOL) care may facilitate EOL discussion.
Methods: The aim of this study was to clarify differences between preferences of the general public and recommendations of healthcare providers with regard to treatment, EOL care, and life-sustaining treatment (LST) based on a hypothetical scenario involving a patient with advanced cancer. This study comprised exploratory post-hoc analyses of “The Survey of Public Attitude Towards Medical Care at the End of life”, which was a population based, cross-sectional anonymous survey in Japan to investigate public attitudes toward medical care at the end of life. Persons living in Japan over 20 years old were randomly selected nationwide. Physicians, nurses, and care staff were recruited at randomly selected facilities throughout Japan. The general public data from the original study was combined to the data of healthcare providers in order to conduct exploratory post-hoc analyses. The preferences of the general public and recommendations of healthcare providers with regard to EOL care and LST was assessed based on the hypothetical scenario of an advanced cancer patient.
Results: All returned questionnaires were analyzed: 973 from the general public, 1039 from physicians, 1854 from nurses, and 752 from care staff (response rates of 16.2, 23.1, 30.9, and 37.6%, respectively). The proportion of the general public who wanted “chemotherapy or radiation”, “ventilation”, and “cardiopulmonary resuscitation” was significantly higher than the frequency of these options being recommended by physicians, nurses, and care staff, but the general public preference for “cardiopulmonary resuscitation” was significantly lower than the frequency of its recommendation by care staff.
Conclusion: Regarding a hypothetical scenario for advanced cancer, the general public preferred more aggressive treatment and more frequent LST than that recommended by healthcare providers.
Several longitudinal studies show that over time the American public has become more approving of euthanasia and suicide for terminally ill persons. Yet, these previous findings are limited because they derive from biased estimates of disaggregated hierarchical data. Using insights from life course sociological theory and cross-classified logistic regression models, I better account for this liberalization process by disentangling the age, period, and cohort effects that contribute to longitudinal changes in these attitudes. The results of the analysis point toward a continued liberalization of both attitudes over time, although the magnitude of change was greater for suicide compared with euthanasia. More fluctuation in the probability of supporting both measures was exhibited for the age and period effects over the cohort effects. In addition, age-based differences in supporting both measures were found between men and women and various religious affiliations.
Objectives: A dementia nurse specialist (DNS) is expected to improve the quality of care and support to people with dementia nearing, and at, the end of life (EoL) by facilitating some key features of care. The aim of this study was to estimate willingness-to-pay (WTP) values from the general public perspective, for the different levels of support that the DNS can provide.
Methods: Contingent valuation methods were used to elicit the maximum WTP for scenarios describing different types of support provided by the DNS for EoL care in dementia. In a general population online survey, 1002 participants aged 18 years or more sampled from the United Kingdom provided valuations. Five scenarios were valued with mean WTP value calculated for each scenario along with the relationship between mean WTP and participant characteristics.
Results: The mean WTP varied across scenarios with higher values for the scenarios offering more features. Participants with some experience of dementia were willing to pay more compared with those with no experience. WTP values were higher for high-income groups compared with the lowest income level (P < .05). There was no evidence to suggest that respondent characteristics such as age, gender, family size, health utility or education status influenced the WTP values.
Conclusion: The general population values the anticipated improvement in dementia care provided by a DNS. This study will help inform judgements on interventions to improve the quality of EoL care.
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: Palliative care is predominantly accessed late in the course of an illness, despite evidence to suggest the benefits of early engagement. Strategies are required to reduce the barriers to the delivery of palliative care.
Aim: To describe community understandings of and attitudes to palliative care and explore characteristics significantly associated with favourable attitudes towards palliative care.
Design: Cross-sectional survey data were collected including several sociodemographic characteristics, knowledge of palliative care and attitudes to palliative care. Correlational analyses identified factors related to positive attitudes to palliative care. Those of significance (p <=0.01) were examined using a multiple regression model to determine their predictive value.
Setting/participants: A community-based sample of consecutive English-speaking adults who volunteered their participation in response to a study advertisement distributed online through established community groups.
Results: A total of 421 participants (75% female, mean age: 51 ± 15.1) reported a median of at least three misperceptions of palliative care. Older age, previously undertaking a caregiving role, knowing someone who had received palliative care and reporting more accurate knowledge of palliative care significantly predicted favourable attitudes to palliative care (adjusted R2 = 0.24, F(8, 333) = 13.2, p < 0.001). Other factors typically associated with health literacy such as tertiary education, working at a medical facility and speaking a language other than English at home were not predictive.
Conclusion: Gaps in knowledge about palliative care exist in community, which may limit citizen’s potential access to quality care in the event of serious illness. These results point to a role for public education programmes, which may, in turn, also shift attitudes to palliative care.
Objective: Acceptance of palliative care (PC) in the USA has increased in recent decades with the growing number of recommendations for adoption from professional organisations. However, there are prevalent public misperceptions of PC that may prevent broader utilisation. This study seeks to identify the primary sources for PC information, which may help identify sources of misperception and improve PC messaging.
Methods: We analysed the 2018 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), a representative survey of USA population knowledge regarding cancer-related information. This is the first iteration to include questions on PC. Prevalence of preferred PC information sources was estimated; multivariable logistic regression invoking stepwise variable selection was used to determine associations with information-seeking behaviour.
Results Our study cohort consisted of 1127 American adults who were familiar with PC. Overall, 59.3% and 34.0% relied primarily on healthcare providers and internet or printed media, respectively. In stepwise regression models of seeking information from healthcare providers, predictors and their relative contributions to the multivariable model were higher education attainment (58.7%), age =60 years (21.5%) and female sex (15.0%). Higher income was the most robust predictor (35.1%) of reliance on internet and printed media for information, followed by being currently married (26.2%).
Conclusions Overall, American adults rely on healthcare providers and media for PC information, with significant sociodemographic differences in information-seeking behaviour. These findings may be used to inform strategies to promote accurate PC awareness.
BACKGROUND: The field of palliative care (PC) is growing as the world population ages and burden of chronic diseases increases. Thus, it is important that the general public is knowledgeable about PC and the benefits PC provides.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to describe the public's knowledge, awareness, and perceptions of PC and determine whether these have changed over time.
METHODS: A scoping literature review was conducted from 1968 to May 2019 using PubMed, EMBASE, and MEDLINE databases.
RESULTS: Thirteen studies met inclusion criteria that originated from the United States, Canada, Scotland, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, Korea, and Sweden between years 2003 and 2019. Participants were adults and mostly younger than 64 years, women, and Caucasian. The majority of studies reported the public having poor knowledge (7/9 articles) and awareness (4/6 articles) of PC over the past 16 years. Top characteristics associated with increased levels of knowledge and/or awareness of PC included women (6/8 articles), age 40+ (6/8 articles), experience with a close friend and/or relative requiring PC (4/8 articles), and working in health-care and/or PC (4/8 articles). The most common perceptions of PC were associated with patients who have terminal illnesses and end-of-life care. Participants commonly received information about PC from the media, having a close friend or relative requiring PC, and working in a health-care setting.
CONCLUSIONS: The public has poor knowledge and awareness about PC and several misperceptions exist. These findings have remained constant over time despite growth in the field of PC, which highlights the strong need for focused educational interventions.
Some end-of-life aspects have become a significant political and social issue such as elderly care and euthanasia. But hardly anything is known about how the general public in Germany thinks about death and dying more generally. Therefore, we conducted a representative online survey (N = 997) regarding 21 end-of-life aspects. Differences between subgroups were analyzed by conducting analyses of variance and Tukey honestly significance difference post hoc tests and by performing t tests. The findings revealed that the general public is open to engaging with topics of death, dying, and grief and that death education might even be promoted for children. Most participants appraised dealing with the finitude of life as part of a good life, but few have contemplated death and dying themselves so far. Attitudes and perceptions were related to age, subjective health, religious denomination, and gender. The survey provides useful implications for community palliative care, death education, and communication with dying people.
BACKGROUND: Decisions about withdrawal of life support for infants have given rise to legal battles between physicians and parents creating intense media attention. It is unclear how we should evaluate when life is no longer worth living for an infant. Public attitudes towards treatment withdrawal and the role of parents in situations of disagreement have not previously been assessed.
METHODS: An online survey was conducted with a sample of the UK public to assess public views about the benefit of life in hypothetical cases similar to real cases heard by the UK courts (eg, Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans). We then evaluated these public views in comparison with existing ethical frameworks for decision-making.
RESULTS: One hundred and thirty participants completed the survey. The majority (94%) agreed that an infant's life may have no benefit when well-being falls below a critical level. Decisions to withdraw treatment were positively associated with the importance of use of medical resources, the infant's ability to have emotional relationships, and mental abilities. Up to 50% of participants in each case believed it was permissible to either continue or withdraw treatment.
CONCLUSION: Despite the controversy, our findings indicate that in the most severe cases, most people agree that life is not worth living for a profoundly disabled infant. Our survey found wide acceptance of at least the permissibility of withdrawal of treatment across a range of cases, though also a reluctance to overrule parents' decisions. These findings may be useful when constructing guidelines for clinical practice.
BACKGROUND: When a patient is incapable of making medical decisions for him- or herself, a substitute decision-maker makes choices according to the patient's previously expressed wishes, values and beliefs; however, little is known about public readiness to act as a substitute decision-maker in Canada. Our primary objective was to measure public self-reported preparedness to act as a substitute decision-maker, and explore the attitudes, barriers and enablers associated with preparedness.
METHODS: From November 2017 to June 2018, we conducted a mixed-methods street intercept survey at 12 pedestrian areas in Ottawa, Ontario. We used descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis to assess predictors of perceived preparedness to be a substitute decision-maker and determine support for high school education. We analyzed qualitative interview questions using inductive thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Of the 626 eligible respondents, 196 refused to participate, leaving 430 participants (response rate 68.7%). A total of 404 surveys (94.0%) were fully complete with no missing data. The respondents were mostly female (243 [56.5%]) and residents of Ontario (364 [84.6%]). The average age was 33.9 years. Although 314 respondents (73.0%) felt prepared to be a substitute decision-maker, 194 (45.1%) reported never having had meaningful conversations with loved ones to understand their wishes in the event of critical illness. A total of 293 participants (68.1%) identified important barriers to feeling prepared. Most respondents (309 [71.9%]) agreed that high school students should learn about being a substitute decision-maker, citing age appropriateness, potential societal benefit and improved decision-making, while cautioning the need to respect different maturity levels, cultures and experiences.
INTERPRETATION: the lack of conversation between loved ones reveals a gap between perceived and actual preparedness to be a substitute decision-maker for a loved one with a critical illness. The overall acceptability of high school education warrants further exploration.
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.
In many countries, it has been publicly debated whether health gains for patients at end-of-life (EoL) should be valued higher than health gains for other patients. This has led to a range of stated preference studies examining the justification for an EoL premium on the basis of public preferences - so far with mixed findings. In the present study, we seek to extend this literature. We apply a simple stated preference approach with illustrative binary choices to elicit both individual and social preferences for several types of health gains. More specifically, we investigate whether health gains at EoL, resulting from either an improvement in quality of life (QoL) or life expectancy (LE) are valued differently from similarly sized health gains from preventive treatment and treatment of a temporary disease. Furthermore, we examine whether social preferences are affected by the age of beneficiaries. A web-based survey was conducted in 2015 using a random sample of 1047 members of the general public in Denmark. Overall, we do not find evidence to support an EoL premium compared to other health gains, neither when preferences are elicited from a social nor an individual perspective. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that the type of the health gain received matters to preferences for treatment at EoL with more weight given to gains in QoL than gains in LE. Finally, we find heterogeneity in preferences according to respondent characteristics, perspectives and age of beneficiaries.
Background: The public's attitudes to conscientious objection (CO) are likely to influence political decisions about CO and trust towards healthcare systems and providers. Few studies examine the public's attitudes in an in-depth way.
Methods: Six hypotheses about public attitudes to CO were devised and a questionnaire designed in order to test them. A total of 1617 Norwegian citizens completed the online questionnaire.
Results: Support for toleration of CO was strongest in the case of ritual circumcision of infant boys, lower for assisted dying and abortion. Attitudes to the procedure itself negatively predicted attitudes to CO for the procedure. Respondents were more accepting of CO to performing abortion than of CO to referrals for abortion. There was stronger support for CO as an outcome of local pragmatic arrangements than for CO as a statutory right.
Conclusions: Instead of viewing CO as a "moral safety valve" or minority right which is due also to those with whom we disagree strongly, a portion of the public approaches the issue from the angle of what moral attitudes they deem acceptable to hold. The gap between this approach on the one hand and human rights principles on the other is likely to give rise to tensions in political processes whenever policies for CO are negotiated.
In New Zealand, aiding and abetting a person to commit suicide or euthanasia even with consent is unlawful. The introduction of a third Bill on assisted dying to the House of Representatives following a high-profile court case afforded an opportunity for examining how assisted dying was discussed in the public sphere. In this article, we report on a discourse analysis of a selection of social media to illustrate the ways in which citizens participate in the voluntary euthanasia debate. The volume of social media posts that made up our data set suggests that the legalisation of assisted dying is a highly topical and deeply salient societal issue. Social media postings represent the voices of ordinary citizens who may not participate in formal public consultation processes. Based on our analysis, the assignment of binary conclusions about public opinion is simplistic and fails to adequately represent the intricacies of public debate. Contributors' posts reveal deeply held sociocultural values, as well as tensions about the relationship between citizens and the apparatus of government.
This study investigates Chinese people’s opinions about the diagnosis of grief and the factors associated with their opinions. Among 1041 participants who completed the online survey, over half (56.5%) agreed that grief could be a mental disorder under certain circumstances, such as harm to self or others, functional impairment, and persistent grief. Primary reasons against the diagnosis were that grief is normal and its intensity decreases over time. A small proportion of opponents also expressed concerns about stigmatization resulting from labeling grief as being pathological. Younger, male, and full-time employed adults tended to support diagnosing grief as a mental disorder.
PURPOSE: Understanding the concept of a "good death" is crucial to end-of-life care, but our current understanding of what constitutes a good death is insufficient. Here, we investigated the components of a good death that are important to the general population, cancer patients, their families, and physicians.
METHODS: We conducted a stratified nationwide cross-sectional survey of cancer patients and their families from 12 hospitals, physicians from 12 hospitals and the Korean Medical Association, and the general population, investigating their attitudes toward 10 good-death components.
FINDINGS: Three components-"not be a burden to the family," "presence of family," and "resolve unfinished business"-were considered the most important components by more than 2/3 of each of the three groups, and an additional three components-"freedom from pain," "feel that life was meaningful," and "at peace with God"-were considered important by all but the physicians group. Physicians considered "feel life was meaningful," "presence of family," and "not be a burden to family" as the core components of a good death, with "freedom from pain" as an additional component. "Treatment choices' followed, "finances in order," "mentally aware," and "die at home" were found to be the least important components among all four groups.
CONCLUSION: While families strongly agreed that "presence of family" and "not be a burden to family" were important to a good death, the importance of other factors differed between the groups. Health care providers should attempt to discern each patient's view of a good death.