Three Belgian doctors—two GPs and a psychiatrist—are being accused of unlawfully killing a 38 year old patient by poisoning almost 10 years ago, in the country’s first criminal case involving assisted dying.
The high profile trial is focusing on the conditions in the 2002 legislation that must be fulfilled before a request for assisted dying can be acted on. It is also revealing possible gaps in the law and the many emotions that patients, their families, and medical professionals may feel when involved in such a procedure.
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Par une décision très attendue, la Cour constitutionnelle italienne a dépénalisé l’assistance au suicide dans certaines hypothèses et sous certaines conditions bien déterminées. Elle s’est prononcée en ce sens après avoir, par une précédente décision, imparti un délai au législateur pour qu’il adopte une loi en matière de fin de vie. Considérant l’inertie de ce dernier, la Cour fait preuve d’équilibrisme dans sa seconde décision, oscillant entre garantie des droits fondamentaux et respect du pouvoir discrétionnaire du Parlement. Par ces deux décisions, les juges constitutionnels italiens ont ainsi mis en place une technique inédite pour parvenir, en deux étapes, aux mêmes effets qu’une déclaration d’inconstitutionnalité à effet différé, afin de ne pas laisser des droits fondamentaux dépourvus de garantie en raison de l’inaction du législateur.
AIM: To develop a simultaneous, evolutionary concept analysis of moral distress and moral uncertainty in the context of medical assistance in dying (MAiD).
BACKGROUND: Moral distress is well represented in nursing literature but disagreement persists in how the concept is defined and understood. Moral uncertainty has not been investigated in-depth. Further definition and conceptual clarity is required to understand these concepts within the context of MAiD.
DESIGN: Simultaneous concept analysis.
DATA SOURCES: Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Google Scholar, and PubMed databases were searched for articles in English. The final sample consisted of 44 documents published from 1984 to 2019.
METHOD: An adapted combination of Rodgers's Evolutionary Model and Haase et al's Simultaneous Concept Analysis method.
RESULTS: Despite the significant overlap, moral distress and moral uncertainty have subtle distinguishing differences. Attributes of moral distress in the context of MAiD focus on knowing the right course of action but being unable to act, especially when conflict or suffering occurs. Attributes of moral uncertainty center on an inability to decide on which course of action to take or knowing what outcome is preferable.
CONCLUSION: More research is required to bring further clarity to these concepts and develop interventions to support nurses who receive requests for or participate in MAiD.
BACKGROUND: In the Netherlands, euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (EAS) is allowed if due care criteria are met. One criterion is consultation of a second independent physician, often SCEN physicians. The public debate about EAS focuses on patients with psychiatric disorders, dementia, and tired of living, as complex cases. What complexities SCEN physicians perceive during consultation is unknown. This study aims to assess the frequency of EAS consultations that are perceived difficult by SCEN physicians, to explore what complexities are perceived by SCEN physicians during consultation, and to assess what characteristics are associated with difficult consultations.
METHODS: Data from 2015 to 2017 from an annual cross-sectional survey among SCEN physicians was used. In 2015, the survey focused on the most difficult consultation that year and in 2016/2017 on the most recent consultation. Frequencies of coded answers to an open-ended question were done to explore what complexities SCEN physicians perceived during their most difficult consultation. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to assess what characteristics were associated with difficult consultations.
RESULTS: 21.6% of cases consulted by SCEN physicians is perceived difficult. Complexities that SCEN physicians perceive were mainly in contact with patients (79.7%) and in the assessment of due care criteria (41.0%). Characteristics that were associated with a higher likelihood of a consultation being difficult are the attending physician being less certain to perform the EAS, patients staying in the hospital, main diagnosis heart failure/CVA, and accumulation of age-related health problems/psychiatry/dementia, and the presence of a psychiatric disorder, or psychosocial or existential problems besides the main diagnosis. Characteristics that were associated with a lower likelihood of a consultation being difficult are high patient's age and physical suffering as reason to request EAS.
CONCLUSION: Complexities perceived by SCEN physicians in EAS consultations are not limited to the 'complex' cases present in the current public debate about EAS, e.g. patients with psychiatric disorders, dementia, and tired of living. Attention for these complexities in intervision could indicate if there is a need among SCEN physicians to enhance knowledge and skills in training and to receive specific support in intervision on these complexities.
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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Ce n'est pas le suicide, la rationalité ou la liberté dont il serait parfois l'expression, qui est ici mon objet, mais l'appréciation de la nature de l'aide apportée à quiconque réclame assistance au suicide. Il s'agit bien de l'assistance au suicide et non de l'euthanasie, car ces deux situations, qui présentent des similitudes, doivent être différenciées : fournir à une personne les moyens de se supprimer n'est pas la supprimer. Dans le cas du suicide assisté, le tiers n'occupe pas la même place que dans l'euthanasie puisqu'il met à disposition le produit toxique destiné à être absorbé par le patient au lieu de pratiquer lui-même l'injection létale. Lors d'un geste euthanasique, un tiers est nécessairement présent et c'est lui qui met fin aux jours de la personne. Ce n'est pas le cas du suicide assisté où le tiers peut être absent.
This special issue contents : a report of physicians’ beliefs about physician-assisted suicide: a national study ; respecting autonomy and promoting the patient’s good in the setting of serious terminal and concurrent mental illness ; after-death functions of cell death; selective neuronal death in neurodegenerative diseases: the ongoing mystery ; practice variability in determination of death by neurologic criteria for adult patients ; mortal responsibilities: bioethics and medical-assisted dying ; anticipation, accompaniment, and a good death in perinatal care ; pros and cons of physician aid in dying ; brain death criteria: medical dogma and outliers ; dying well-informed: the need for better clinical education surrounding facilitating end-of-life conversations ; looking back at withdrawal of life-support law and policy to see what lies ahead for medical aid-in-dying.
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.
A culture of dying characterized by end-of-life care provided by strangers in institutional settings and diminished personal control of the dying process has been a catalyst for the increasing prevalence of legalized physician-assisted dying in the United States and medically-assisted dying in Canada. The moral logic of the right to die that supports patient refusals of life-extending medical treatments has been expanded by some scholarly arguments to provide ethical legitimation for hastening patient deaths either through physician-prescribed medications or direct physician administration of a lethal medication. The concept of medical-assisted dying increases the role and power of physicians in ending life and allows patients who are not terminally ill, or who have lost decision-making capacity, or who are suffering from a irremediable medical condition to have access to medical procedures to hasten death. This extended moral logic can be countered by ethical objections regarding the integrity of the patient-physician relationship and last resorts in ending life, professional concerns about medicalization and a diminished identity of medicine as a healing profession, and social responsibilities to provide equal access to basic health care and to hospice care.
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?
The question of a physician's involvement in aid in dying (or "assisted suicide") is being debated across the country. This article adopts no one position because its authors hold contrasting views. It aims instead to articulate the strongest arguments in favor of aid in dying and the strongest arguments opposed. It also addresses relevant terminology and reviews the history of its legalization in the United States.
The goal of this work is to assess the beliefs of US physicians about the national legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS). We sent a survey to 1000 randomly chosen physicians from around the US. Our survey indicates that 60% of physicians thought PAS should be legal, and of that 60%, 13% answered "yes" when asked if they would perform the practice if it were legal. Next, 49% of physicians agreed that most patients who seek PAS do so because of pain, and 58% agreed that the current safeguards in place for PAS, in general, are adequate to protect patients. With respect to specific safeguards, 60% disagreed with the statement that physicians who are not psychiatrists are adequately trained to screen for depression in patients seeking PAS, and 60% disagreed with the idea that physicians can predict with certainty whether a patient seeking PAS has 6 months or less to live. Finally, about one-third (30%) of physicians thought that the legalization of PAS would lead to the legalization of euthanasia, and 46% agreed that insurance companies would preferentially cover PAS over possible life-saving treatments if PAS was legalized nationally. Our survey results suggest several conclusions about physicians' beliefs about PAS. The first is that there is a discrepancy between willingness to endorse and willingness to practice PAS. Second, physicians are generally misinformed with regard to why patients seek PAS, and they are uncertain about the adequacy of safeguards. Third, physicians are still wary of the slippery slope with respect to the legalization of PAS nationwide.
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: As of 2019, ten jurisdictions in the United States have authorized physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient for the purpose of hastening death. Relatively little bioethics scholarship has addressed the question of whether physicians have an obligation to inform qualifying patients about aid-in-dying (AID) in permissive jurisdictions and little is known about providers' actual communication practices with respect to this issue.
Methods: One hundred and forty-four in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed using an inductive analytic approach as part of the Vermont Study on Aid-in-Dying.
Results: Seventeen respondents, 14 physicians and 3 nurse practitioners, met the inclusion criteria for this sub-study. Eleven respondents indicated that they at least sometimes inform patients about AID. Respondents described multiple factors that influence whether or not they might initiate discussions of AID, including the importance of informing patients of their options for end-of-life care, worries about undue influence, and worries about the potential effects on the patient-provider relationship. For those providers who do initiate discussion of AID at least some of the time, attention to the particulars of each individual patient's situation and the context of the discussion appear to play a role in shaping communication about AID.
Conclusions: While initiating a clinical discussion of AID is undoubtedly challenging, our study provides compelling descriptive evidence that some medical providers who support AID do not unilaterally follow the conventional bioethics wisdom holding that they ought to wait for patients to introduce the topic of AID. Future research should investigate how to approach these discussions so as to minimize ethical worries about undue influence or potential negative consequences.
Background: Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in Canada came into effect in 2016 with the passing of Bill C-14. As patient interest and requests for MAID continue to evolve in Canada, it is important to understand the attitudes of future providers and the factors that may influence their participation. Attitudes towards physician hastened death (PHD) in general and the specific provision of MAID (e.g., causing death by lethal prescription or injection) are unknown among Canadian residents. This study examined residents’ attitudes towards PHD and MAID, and identified factors (e.g., demographics, clinical exposure to death and dying) that may influence their decision to participate in PHD and provide MAID.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was adapted from prior established surveys on MAID to reflect the Canadian setting. All Canadian family medicine programs were invited to participate. The survey was distributed between December 2016 and April 2017. Analysis of the results included descriptive statistics to characterize the survey participants and multivariable logistic regressions to identify factors that may influence residents’ attitudes towards PHD and MAID.
Results: Overall, 247 residents from 6 family medicine training programs in Canada participated (response rate of 27%). While residents were most willing to participate in treatment withdrawal (52%), active participation in PHD (41%) and MAID by prescription of a lethal drug (31%) and lethal injection (24%) were less acceptable. Logistic regressions identified religion as a consistent and significant factor impacting residents’ willingness to participate in PHD and MAID. Residents who were not strictly practicing a religion were more likely to be willing to participate in PHD (OR = 17.38, p < 0.001) and MAID (lethal drug OR = 10.55, p < 0.01, lethal injection OR = 8.54, p < 0.05). Increased clinical exposure to death and dying crudely correlated with increased willingness to participate in PHD and MAID, but when examined in multivariable models, only a few activities (e.g., declaring death, completing a death certificate) had a statistically significant association. Other significant factors included the residents’ sex and location of training.
Conclusions: Residents are hesitant to provide MAID themselves, with religious faith being a major factor impacting their decision.
CONTEXT: A central approach of palliative care has been to provide holistic care for people who are dying, terminally ill or facing life-limiting illnesses while neither hastening nor postponing death. Assisted dying laws allow eligible individuals to receive medically administered or self-administered medication from a health provider to end their life. The implementation of these laws in a growing number of jurisdictions therefore poses certain challenges for palliative care.
OBJECTIVES: To analyse the research literature about the relationship of assisted dying with palliative care, in countries where it is lawful.
METHODS: A five-stage scoping review process was adapted from the Joanna Briggs Institute. Data sources searched through October 2018 were MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychINFO, SCOPUS, and ProQuest dissertations and theses, with additional material identified through hand searching. Research studies of any design were included, but editorials or opinion articles were excluded.
RESULTS: After reviewing 5778 references from searches, 105 were subject to full-text review. 16 studies were included: from Belgium (4), Canada (1), Switzerland (2) and the United States (9). We found the relationship between assisted dying and palliative care practices in these locations took varied and sometimes combined forms: supportive, neutral, coexisting, not mutually exclusive, integrated, synergistic, cooperative, collaborative, opposed, ambivalent and conflicted.
CONCLUSION: The studies in this review cast only partial light on challenges faced by palliative care when assisted dying is legal. There is pressing need for more research on the involvement of palliative care in the developing practices of assisted dying, across a growing number of jurisdictions.
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.
Conscientious objection has become a divisive topic in recent bioethics publications. Discussion has tended to frame the issue in terms of the rights of the healthcare professional versus the rights of the patient. However, a rights-based approach neglects the relational nature of conscience, and the impact that violating one's conscience has on the care one provides. Using medical assistance in dying as a case study, we suggest that what has been lacking in the discussion of conscientious objection thus far is a recognition and prioritising of the relational nature of ethical decision-making in healthcare and the negative consequences of moral distress that occur when healthcare professionals find themselves in situations in which they feel they cannot provide what they consider to be excellent care. We propose that policies that respect the relational conscience could benefit our healthcare institutions by minimising the negative impact of moral distress, improving communication among team members and fostering a culture of ethical awareness. Constructive responses to moral distress including relational cultivation of moral resilience are urged.
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.