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J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2014-102459
  • Brief report

Finnish physicians’ attitudes towards active euthanasia have become more positive over the last 10 years

  1. Jukka Vänskä2
  1. 1Hjelt Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Hjelt Institute, Finnish Medical Association, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pekka Louhiala, Hjelt Institute, PO Box 41, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland;pekka.louhiala{at}helsinki.fi
  • Received 28 August 2014
  • Revised 10 December 2014
  • Accepted 30 December 2014
  • Published Online First 21 January 2015

Abstract

Introduction Most physicians are against active euthanasia. Very little is known about the possible changes in the attitudes of physicians.

Methods A questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 1003 Finnish physicians of working age. A similar questionnaire had been sent to a random sample of Finnish physicians also in 1993 and 2003. The questionnaire consisted of statements about euthanasia, for which the participants were asked to express their agreement or disagreement on a 5-point Likert scale.

Results In general, Finnish physicians’ attitudes towards active euthanasia have become considerably more positive. In 2003, 61% of the respondents were against the legalisation of euthanasia and 29% supported it. In 2013, both groups were of equal size (46%). The willingness to perform active euthanasia has not, however, increased significantly, even in a legalised setting.

Conclusions The attitudes of Finnish physicians towards active euthanasia became considerably more positive between 2003 and 2013. There was no significant change, however, in the willingness to practice euthanasia if it became legal.