Background: Hospital nurses are frequently the first care givers to receive a patient’s request for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (PAS). In France, there is no consensus over which medical practices should be considered euthanasia, and this lack of consensus blurred the debate about euthanasia and PAS legalisation. This study aimed to investigate French hospital nurses’ opinions towards both legalisations, including personal conceptions of euthanasia and working conditions and organisation.
Methods: A phone survey conducted among a random national sample of 1502 French hospital nurses. We studied factors associated with opinions towards euthanasia and PAS, including contextual factors related to hospital units with random-effects logistic models.
Results: Overall, 48% of nurses supported legalisation of euthanasia and 29%, of PAS. Religiosity, training in pallative care/pain management and feeling competent in end-of-life care were negatively correlated with support for legalisation of both euthanasia and PAS, while nurses working at night were more prone to support legalisation of both. The support for legalisation of euthanasia and PAS was also weaker in pain treatment/palliative care and intensive care units, and it was stronger in units not benefiting from interventions of charity/religious workers and in units with more nurses.
Conclusions: Many French hospital nurses uphold the legalisation of euthanasia and PAS, but these nurses may be the least likely to perform what proponents of legalisation call “good” euthanasia. Improving professional knowledge of palliative care could improve the management of end-of-life situations and help to clarify the debate over euthanasia.
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Competing interests: None.
Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.