Gap in conceivability of euthanasia for advanced dementia between physicians, general public
Despite widespread acceptance among the general public, few doctors agree that euthanasia is acceptable for elderly adults with advanced dementia, a recent study has found.
“This discrepancy may cause tensions in daily practice because patients’ and families’ expectations may not be met,” researchers said. The present study “urges patients, families, and physicians to discuss mutual expectations in these complex situations in a comprehensive and timely manner.”
Researchers randomly sampled 1,965 citizens from the general public and 1,147 physicians. The general public participants were asked how strongly they agreed to the statement “I think that people with dementia should be eligible for euthanasia, even if they no longer understand what is happening (if they have previously asked for it).”
Physicians, on the other hand, were asked how they thought about performing euthanasia in such patients, in the absence of severe comorbidities, but with the basis of an advanced directive.
The survey showed that 60 percent of the general public agreed to the statement, while 27 percent were in complete disagreement. The remaining were neutral about it. Moreover, 83 percent agreed with the hypothetical situation of a physician performing euthanasia on such a patient, who had set an advanced directive.
However, the conceivability of performing such a procedure was low for healthcare workers. In particular, only 8 percent of nursing home physicians thought it was conceivable to perform euthanasia on a patient with advanced dementia and who had written an advanced directive but did not have severe comorbidities. This rate was 24 percent for general practitioners and 23 percent for clinical specialists.