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French doctors want euthanasia to be legalised

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Many French doctors want euthanasia to be legalised, according to a nationwide telephone survey in France. This may be the result of a lack of professional knowledge about palliative care rather than cultural differences to English speaking countries.

A group of investigators interviewed a random sample of 917 doctors in France. They investigated respondents’ involvement in end of life care and palliative care, their attitude towards terminally ill patients, and whether euthanasia should be legalised.

They found that general practitioners and neurologists were more in favour of euthanasia than oncologists, who are more experienced in end of life care, more frequently trained in palliative care, and more comfortable with and better at communication with terminally ill patients.

The investigators expressed surprise at their findings. Proponents of legalisation often argue that euthanasia is a continuation of end of life care and that doctors should respect patients’ autonomy, and they therefore expected to find the reverse. Improving doctors’ knowledge on palliative care might improve end of life care and may clarify the debate over euthanasia.