Context In The Netherlands, approximately 45% of patients’ requests for euthanasia are granted by a physician. After a rejected request, some patients approach non-physicians and ask them for assistance in suicide. Recently, a non-physician who assisted his mother's suicide was declared guilty without punishment.
Aim The aim of the current study was to investigate the opinion of the Dutch general public on non-physician-assisted suicide.
Methods A cross-sectional survey among the Dutch general public was performed. A total of 1113 respondents were included (response rate 80%). The survey covered two case descriptions in which a patient asks a non-physician for assisted suicide after a non-granted request for physician-assisted dying. In both cases, a son, friend or professional facilitates the suicide by either the provision of information or the purchase of lethal medication. Respondents were invited to give their opinion on these cases and in addition on 10 propositions on non-physician-assisted suicide.
Results When a son provides information on how to acquire lethal medication in case of a patient with a terminal illness, this involvement is accepted by 62% of the respondents. The actual purchase of lethal medication receives less support (38%). If the patient suffers without a serious disease, both forms of assistance are less accepted (46% and 24%, respectively). In addition, only 21% support the legalisation of non-physician-assisted suicide. The Dutch public prefer involvement of a physician in assisted suicide (69%).
Conclusions The Dutch general public consider non-physician-assisted suicide in some specific cases a tolerable alternative for patients with a rejected request for physician-assisted dying if the assistance is limited to the provision of information. However, the majority do not support the legalisation of non-physician-assisted suicide.
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