Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 82–89 | Cite as

Cancer patients’ attitudes towards euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: The influence of question wording and patients’ own definitions on responses

  • Lynne Parkinson
  • Katherine Rainbird
  • Ian Kerridge
  • Gregory Carter
  • John Cavenagh
  • John McPhee
  • Peter Ravenscroft


Objectives: The aims of this study were to: (1) investigate patients’ views on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), and (2) examine the impact of question wording and patients’ own definitions on their responses. Design: Cross-sectional survey of consecutive patients with cancer. Setting: Newcastle (Australia) Mater Hospital Outpatients Clinic. Participants: Patients over 18 years of age, attending the clinic for follow-up consultation or treatment by a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist or haematologist. Main Outcome Measures: Face-to-face patient interviews were conducted examining attitudes to euthanasia and PAS. Results: 236 patients with cancer (24% participation rate; 87% consent rate) were interviewed. Though the majority of participants supported the idea of euthanasia, patient views varied significantly according to question wording and their own understanding of the definition of euthanasia. Conclusions: Researchers need to be circumspect about framing and interpreting questions about support of ‘euthanasia’, as the term can mean different things to different people, and response may depend upon the specifics of the question asked.


Clinical Ethic Terminal Illness Question Wording Active Voluntary Euthanasia Bioethical Inquiry Volume 
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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynne Parkinson
    • 1
  • Katherine Rainbird
    • 2
  • Ian Kerridge
    • 3
  • Gregory Carter
    • 4
  • John Cavenagh
    • 5
  • John McPhee
    • 6
  • Peter Ravenscroft
    • 7
  1. 1.Centre for Research and Education in AgeingThe University of NewcastleAustralia
  2. 2.Health Research ConsultantBaldivisAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in MedicineUniversity of SydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Newcastle Mater HospitalAustralia
  5. 5.Division of Palliative CareNewcastle Mater HospitalAustralia
  6. 6.School of Medical Practice and Population HealthThe University of NewcastleAustralia
  7. 7.Division of Palliative CareNewcastle Mater HospitalAustralia

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