Background: Although nurses worldwide are confronted with euthanasia requests from patients, the views of palliative care nurses on their involvement in euthanasia remain unclear.
Objectives: In depth exploration of the views of palliative care nurses on their involvement in the entire care process surrounding euthanasia.
Design: A qualitative Grounded Theory strategy was used.
Setting and participants: In anticipation of new Belgian legislation on euthanasia, we conducted semistructured interviews with 12 nurses working in a palliative care setting in the province of Vlaams-Brabant (Belgium).
Results: Palliative care nurses believed unanimously that they have an important role in the process of caring for a patient who requests euthanasia, a role that is not limited to assisting the physician when he is administering life terminating drugs. Nurses’ involvement starts when the patient requests euthanasia and ends with supporting the patient’s relatives and healthcare colleagues after the potential life terminating act. Nurses stressed the importance of having an open mind and of using palliative techniques, also offering a contextual understanding of the patient’s request in the decision making process. Concerning the actual act of performing euthanasia, palliative care nurses saw their role primarily as assisting the patient, the patient’s family, and the physician by being present, even if they could not reconcile themselves with actually performing euthanasia.
Conclusions: Based on their professional nursing expertise and unique relationship with the patient, nurses participating as full members of the interdisciplinary expert team are in a key position to provide valuable care to patients requesting euthanasia.
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This study was partially funded by the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders (Belgium).