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Veterinary surgeons' attitudes towards physician-assisted suicide: an empirical study of Swedish experts on euthanasia
  1. Henrik Lerner1,
  2. Anna Lindblad2,
  3. Bo Algers3,
  4. Niels Lynöe2
  1. 1Centre for Applied Ethics, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2Centre for Healthcare Ethics, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skara, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Henrik Lerner, Centre for Applied ethics, Linköping University, SE-58183 Linköping, Sweden; henrik.lerner{at}


Aim To examine the hypothesis that knowledge about physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia is associated with a more restrictive attitude towards PAS.

Design A questionnaire about attitudes towards PAS, including prioritisation of arguments pro and contra, was sent to Swedish veterinary surgeons. The results were compared with those from similar surveys of attitudes among the general public and physicians.

Participants All veterinary surgeons who were members of the Swedish Veterinary Association and had provided an email address (n=2421).

Main outcome measures Similarities or differences in response pattern between veterinary surgeons, physicians and the general public.

Results The response pattern among veterinary surgeons and the general public was almost similar in all relevant aspects. Of the veterinarians 75% (95% CI 72% to 78%) were in favour of PAS, compared with 73% (95% CI 69% to 77%) among the general public. Only 10% (95% CI 5% to 15%) of the veterinary surgeons were against PAS, compared with 12% (95% CI 5% to 19%) among the general public. Finally, 15% (95% CI 10% to 21%) of veterinarians were undecided, compared with 15% (95% CI 8% to 22%) among the general public. Physicians had a more restrictive attitude to PAS than the general public.

Conclusions Since veterinary surgeons have frequent practical experience of euthanasia in animals, they do have knowledge about what euthanasia really is. Veterinary surgeons and the general public had an almost similar response pattern. Accordingly it seems difficult to maintain that knowledge about euthanasia is unambiguously associated with a restrictive attitude towards PAS.

  • Attitudes towards physician-assisted suicide
  • knowledge about euthanasia
  • veterinary surgeons
  • demographic surveys/attitudes
  • attitudes toward death
  • care of the dying patient

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  • Funding HL and BA received a grant from KSLA (Stiftelsen Carl-Fredrik von Horns fond, H-526) for the study of attitudes among veterinary surgeons.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study design for this study has been presented to one of the research ethical committees in Sweden, and the committee had no concerns (Dnr M155-09).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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