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Attitudes toward euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: a study of the multivariate effects of healthcare training, patient characteristics, religion and locus of control


Public and healthcare professionals differ in their attitudes towards euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), the legal status of which is currently in the spotlight in the UK. In addition to medical training and experience, religiosity, locus of control and patient characteristics (eg, patient age, pain levels, number of euthanasia requests) are known influencing factors. Previous research tends toward basic designs reporting on attitudes in the context of just one or two potentially influencing factors; we aimed to test the comparative importance of a larger range of variables in a sample of nursing trainees and non-nursing controls. One hundred and fifty-one undergraduate students (early-stage nursing training, late-stage nursing training and non-nursing controls) were approached on a UK university campus and asked to complete a self-report questionnaire. Participants were of mixed gender and were on average 25.5 years old. No significant differences in attitude were found between nursing and non-nursing students. There was a significant positive correlation between higher religiosity and positive attitude toward euthanasia (r=0.19, p<0.05) and a significant negative relationship between internal locus of control and positive attitude toward PAS (r=−0.263, p<0.01). Multivariate analyses revealed differing predictor models for attitudes towards euthanasia and PAS, and confirm the importance of individual differences in determining these attitudes. The unexpected direction of association between religiosity and attitudes may reflect a broader cultural shift in attitudes since earlier research in this area. Furthermore, these findings suggest it possible that experience, more than training itself, may be a bigger influence on attitudinal differences in healthcare professionals.

  • Euthanasia
  • Suicide/Assisted Suicide
  • Care of the Dying Patient
  • Health Personnel
  • Psychology

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