Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Geriatric euthanasia: attitudes and experiences of health professionals

Summary

Increasingly, decisions to withhold treatment for the terminally ill have received considerable attention in medical, ethical, legal and lay publications. Few studies, however, have examined in detail the beliefs of health professionals about euthanasia, and more importantly, the frequency with which euthanasia occurs. A questionnaire was administered to 190 health care professionals (three-fourths of whom were affiliated with long term health care facilities) to examine these two questions. With regard to passive euthanasia, 83% of the respondents had heard of such cases, 56% had participated, 37% had given the permission for it to occur, and 17% had withheld life support system. With respect to active euthanasia, results were as follows: hearsay, 44%; participation, 21%; permission, 37%; and direct action, 20%. This study supports the need for health care professionals to become more active in the development of broad professional and individual institutional ethical guidelines in the care of the terminally ill.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. 1.

    Barnard C (1980) Good life good death: A doctor's case for euthanasia and suicide. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ

  2. 2.

    Creighton H (1983) Termination of life-sustaining treatment. Nurs Manag 14: 14–15

  3. 3.

    United States President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1983) Deciding to forego life-sustaining treatment: A Report on the ethical, medical, and legal issues in treatment decisions. US Government Printing Office, Washington (DC)

  4. 4.

    The citation (1981) Current medicolegal issues. Conn Med 45: 45–46

  5. 5.

    Lo P, Jonsen AR (1980) Clinical decisions to limit treatment. Ann Intern Med 93: 765–768

  6. 6.

    Davis AJ (1981) Dilemmas in practice: To make live or let die. Am J Nurs 81: 582

  7. 7.

    Vanderpool HY (1978) The ethics of terminal care. J Am Med Assoc 239: 850–852

  8. 8.

    Winter A (ed) (1980) Life and death decisions. Charles C.Thomas, Springfield (IL), pp 31–55

  9. 9.

    Curran WJ, Hyg SM (1981) Court involvement in right-to-die cases: Judicial inquiry in New York. N Engl J Med 305: 75–76

  10. 10.

    Baron CH (1981) Termination of life support systems in the elderly. Discussion: To die before the gods please: Legal issues surrounding euthanasia and the elderly. J Geriatr Psychiatry 14: 45–70

  11. 11.

    Annas GJ (1981) Termination of life support systems in the elderly. Legal issues: The cases of brother fox and earle spring. J Geriatr Psychiatry 14: 31–43

  12. 12.

    Kluge EW (1981) The ethics of deliberate death. National University Publications, Kennikat Press, Port Washington (NY)

  13. 13.

    Curtin L (1976) The Mask of euthanasia. Cincinnati: N(urses) C(oncerned) F(or) L(ife) (2nd edn)

  14. 14.

    Lo B, Jonsen AR (1980) Ethical decisions in the care of a patient terminally ill with metastatic cancer. Ann Intern Med 92: 107–111

  15. 15.

    Meier DE, Cassel CK (1983) Euthanasia in old age: A case study and ethical analysis. J Am Geriatr Soc 31: 294–298

  16. 16.

    Lasagna L (1984) A duty to die? Sciences 24: 7–8

  17. 17.

    Lipsitt DR (1981) Termination of life support systems in the elderly. Introduction: “To be or not to be”: Decision-making dilemmas in modern medicine. J Geriatr Psychiatry 14: 7–12

  18. 18.

    Pearlman RA, Inui TS, Carter WB (1982) Variability in physican bioethical decision-making. Ann Intern Med 97: 420–425

  19. 19.

    Wagner A (1984) Cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the aged: A prospective survey. N Engl J Med 310: 1129–1130

  20. 20.

    Winget C, Kapp FT, Yearworth R (1977) Attitudes towards euthanasia. J Med Ethics 3: 18–25

  21. 21.

    Heifetz MD, Mangel C (1975) The right to die: A neurosurgeon speaks of death with candor. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York (NY)

  22. 22.

    Johnson D, Fitch SD, Alston JP, et al (1980) Acceptance of conditional suicide and euthanasia among adult Americans. Suicide Life Threat Behav 10: 157–166

  23. 23.

    Stead EA, Jr (1982) Unsolved issues in medicine: Geriatrics as a case in point. J Am Geriatr Soc 30: 231–234

  24. 24.

    Levinson AJR (1981) Termination of life support systems in the elderly: Ethical issues. J Geriatr Psychiatry 14: 71–85

  25. 25.

    George JE, Quattrone MS (1983) Prolongation of life: When should we stop? J Med Soc (NJ) 80: 997–1001

  26. 26.

    Childress JF (1981) To live or let die. In: Priorities in biomedical ethics. Westminster Press, Philadelphia (PA), pp 507–523

  27. 27.

    McCormick RA (1974) To save or let die. J Am Med Assoc 229: 172–176

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bosmann, H.B., Kay, J. & Conter, E.A. Geriatric euthanasia: attitudes and experiences of health professionals. Soc Psychiatry 22, 1–4 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00583612

Download citation

Keywords

  • Public Health
  • Health Care
  • Health Professional
  • Health Care Facility
  • Support System