Attitudes toward assisted death amongst Portuguese oncologists
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The attitudes and practise of doctors concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide have been the subject of studies performed in many countries. However, these issues have not been studied properly in Portugal.
Materials and method
This study is a survey of 450 Portuguese oncologists by postal means and personal contact.
The response rate was 33% (143). Only 13% would practise euthanasia with the present law in force forbidding such practise, and 24% would do so if it were legalised; 39% favoured its legalisation and 36% would like to have the option of euthanasia if they had a terminal disease. About assisted suicide, 15% would do it with the current law in force forbidding such action and 25% would do so if it were made legal; 32% favoured its legalisation and 24% would like to have that option if they had a terminal disease. There was one case of euthanasia and no cases of assisted suicide. The most important factor related with the acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide was religion, with non-practising Catholics accepting such practises more often than practising Catholics. The Portuguese oncologists have a very positive view on the potential role of palliative care in preventing many requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Portuguese oncologists are mainly against the practise of euthanasia and assisted suicide and the number of requests is also relatively low; consequently, the number of episodes of assisted death is also apparently very low.
KeywordsAssisted death Euthanasia Assisted suicide End-of-life decisions Palliative care
I would like to thank Prof. Rui Nunes, as advisor of the Master’s Degree in Bioethics from where this work was extracted; Prof. Henrique de Barros and Dr. Joselina Barbosa and Dr. Milton Severo from the Epidemiology Service of the Faculty of Medicine of Porto University for their help in data extraction and statistical analysis; Helga Kuhse, Frederich Stiefel, David Doukas and Diane Meier for making available the questionnaires used in their studies; and The Portuguese League against Cancer for funding the study.
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