Objectives: To assess French district nurses’ opinions towards euthanasia and to study factors associated with these opinions, with emphasis on attitudes towards terminal patients.
Design and setting: An anonymous telephone survey carried out in 2005 among a national random sample of French district nurses.
Participants: District nurses currently delivering home care who have at least 1 year of professional experience. Of 803 district nurses contacted, 602 agreed to participate (response rate 75%).
Main outcome measures: Opinion towards the legalisation of euthanasia (on a five-point Likert scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”), attitudes towards terminal patients (discussing end-of-life issues with them, considering they should be told their prognosis, valuing the role of advance directives and surrogates).
Results: Overall, 65% of the 602 nurses favoured legalising euthanasia. Regarding associated factors, this proportion was higher among those who discuss end-of-life issues with terminal patients (70%), who consider competent patients should always be told their prognosis (81%) and who value the role of advance directives and surrogates in end-of-life decision-making for incompetent patients (68% and 77% respectively). Women and older nurses were less likely to favour legalising euthanasia, as were those who believed in a god who masters their destiny.
Conclusions: French nurses are more in favour of legalising euthanasia than French physicians; these two populations contrast greatly in the factors associated with this support. Further research is needed to investigate how and to what extent such attitudes may affect nursing practice and emotional well-being in the specific context of end-of-life home care.
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Funding (PPW) was provided by the Fondation de France, the French League against Cancer, Fondation CNP, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Marseilles (hospital program for clinical research: PHRC).
Competing interests: None declared.