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J Med Ethics 33:721-725 doi:10.1136/jme.2006.017137
  • Law, ethics and medicine

End-of-life decisions in medical practice: a survey of doctors in Victoria (Australia)

  1. D A Neil1,
  2. C A J Coady2,
  3. J Thompson2,
  4. H Kuhse3
  1. 1
    School of English Literatures, Philosophy and Languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia
  2. 2
    Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Department of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3
    Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
  1. David A Neil, School of English Literatures, Philosophy and Languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522 Australia; http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/staff/selpl.html; dneil{at}uow.edu.au
  • Received 19 April 2006
  • Revised 4 October 2006
  • Accepted 6 October 2006

Abstract

Objectives: To discover the current state of opinion and practice among doctors in Victoria, Australia, regarding end-of-life decisions and the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. Longitudinal comparison with similar 1987 and 1993 studies.

Design and participants: Cross-sectional postal survey of doctors in Victoria.

Results: 53% of doctors in Victoria support the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia. Of doctors who have experienced requests from patients to hasten death, 35% have administered drugs with the intention of hastening death. There is substantial disagreement among doctors concerning the definition of euthanasia.

Conclusions: Disagreement among doctors concerning the meaning of the term euthanasia may contribute to misunderstanding in the debate over voluntary euthanasia. Among doctors in Victoria, support for the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia appears to have weakened slightly over the past 17 years. Opinion on this issue is sharply polarised.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None