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Major gaps persist in knowledge of the practice of assisted suicide and euthanasia

By Michael Cooke, BioEdge, 10th November 2019

More research must be undertaken about the decision making process and consequences of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and how this legislation “affects societal discourses regarding palliative care, suffering, old age and dying.”

Currently, research into euthanasia is difficult as some jurisdictions have no legally required reporting procedures, with some forbidding the mention of euthanasia as the cause of death on the death certificate. Euthanasia legislation “suffers from an under- reporting bias. Studies have estimated that, even several years after legalisation, from 1/5 (the Netherlands) to 1/3 (Belgium) [of] cases is [sic] not reported.”

“More in-depth knowledge overall is needed into the MAiD [Medical Aid in Dying] decision- making process, especially concerning vulnerable population groups such as the oldest old and people suffering from severe mental illness … most research on MAiD practice has been limited to interviewing or surveying physicians. More research exploring the narratives from patients and patients’ relatives is particularly needed to gain a more complete picture.”

There is an “important gap in our understanding of the process and consequences of the practice”. The influence of legalising euthanasia on palliative care, and patients feel pressure, fearing being a burden to relatives and society, must be examined.

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Doctor support for assisted suicide drops radically after legalization

by HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Prior to the legislation being passed, 48% of doctors surveyed indicated a willingness to participate in assisted suicide, with a further 30% saying they would do so with certain conditions being met, making a total of 78% of doctors supporting legalised killing.  After the legislation passed, these numbers inverted, with most doctors admitting that they were unable to stomach the idea of killing their patients:

77% refused to actively participate in their patients’ medical-aid-in-dying process, all of them using the conscientious objection clause, thus requiring a substitute physician be identified so as to provide the intervention required.

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