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Older peoples' attitudes towards euthanasia and an end-of-life pill in The Netherlands: 2001–2009

Abstract

Introduction With an ageing population, end-of-life care is increasing in importance. The present work investigated characteristics and time trends of older peoples' attitudes towards euthanasia and an end-of-life pill.

Methods Three samples aged 64 years or older from the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam (N=1284 (2001), N=1303 (2005) and N=1245 (2008)) were studied. Respondents were asked whether they could imagine requesting their physician to end their life (euthanasia), or imagine asking for a pill to end their life if they became tired of living in the absence of a severe disease (end-of-life pill). Using logistic multivariable techniques, changes of attitudes over time and their association with demographic and health characteristics were assessed.

Results The proportion of respondents with a positive attitude somewhat increased over time, but significantly only among the 64–74 age group. For euthanasia, these percentages were 58% (2001), 64% (2005) and 70% (2008) (OR of most recent versus earliest period (95% CI): 1.30 (1.17 to 1.44)). For an end-of-life pill, these percentages were 31% (2001), 33% (2005) and 45% (2008) (OR (95% CI): 1.37 (1.23 to 1.52)). For the end-of-life pill, interaction between the most recent time period and age group was significant.

Conclusions An increasing proportion of older people reported that they could imagine desiring euthanasia or an end-of-life pill. This may imply an increased interest in deciding about your own life and stresses the importance to take older peoples' wishes seriously.

  • Older adults
  • end of life
  • population study
  • socio-economic status
  • religion
  • euthanasia
  • living wills/advance directives
  • pain management
  • right to refuse treatment
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