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The impact on patient trust of legalising physician aid in dying
  1. M Hall1,
  2. F Trachtenberg2,
  3. E Dugan3
  1. 1Wake Forest University Schools of Medicine and Law, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
  2. 2The New England Research Institutes, Watertown, MA, USA
  3. 3University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mark A Hall
 Wake Forest University, School of Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1063, USA; mhall{at}


Objective: Little empirical evidence exists to support either side of the ongoing debate over whether legalising physician aid in dying would undermine patient trust.

Design: A random national sample of 1117 US adults were asked about their level of agreement with a statement that they would trust their doctor less if “euthanasia were legal [and] doctors were allowed to help patients die”.

Results: There was disagreement by 58% of the participants, and agreement by only 20% that legalising euthanasia would cause them to trust their personal physician less. The remainder were neutral. These attitudes were the same in men and women, but older people and black people had more agreement that euthanasia would lower trust. However, overall, only 27% of elderly people (age 65+) and 32% of black people thought that physician aid in dying would lower trust. These views differed with physical and mental health, and also with education and income, with those having more of these attributes tending to view physician aid in dying somewhat more favourably. Again, however, overall views in most of these subgroups were positive. Views about the effect of physician aid in dying on trust were significantly correlated with participants’ underlying trust in their physicians and their satisfaction with care. In a multivariate regression model, trust, satisfaction, age, and white/black race remained independently significant.

Conclusion: Despite the widespread concern that legalising physician aid in dying would seriously threaten or undermine trust in physicians, the weight of the evidence in the USA is to the contrary, although views vary significantly.

  • PAS, physician-assisted suicide
  • doctor–patient relationship
  • euthanasia
  • physician-assisted suicide
  • trust

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  • This research was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Eye Institute (EY012443-02), and the National Institute on Aging (AG015248-03). The opinions or assertions contained herein are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies.

  • Competing interests: none declared