Ambivalence toward euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has decreased among physicians in Finland

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Abstract

Background: Debates around euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) are ongoing around the globe. Public support has been mounting in Western countries, while some decline has been observed in the USA and Eastern Europe. Physicians’ support for euthanasia and PAS has been lower than that of the general public, but a trend toward higher acceptance among physicians has been seen in recent years. The aim of this study was to examine the current attitudes of Finnish physicians toward euthanasia and PAS and whether there have been changes in these attitudes over three decades. Methods: A questionnaire survey was conducted with all Finnish physicians of working age in 2020 and the results were compared to previous studies conducted in 1993, 2003 and 2013. Results: The proportions of physicians fully agreeing and fully disagreeing with the legalization of euthanasia increased from 1993 to 2020 (from 5 to 25%, p < 0.001, and from 30 to 34%, p < 0.001, respectively). The number of physicians, who expressed no opinion for or against euthanasia (cannot say) decreased from 19 to 5% (p < 0.001) during the same period. The proportion of physicians having no opinion (cannot say) of whether a physician should be punished for assisting in a suicide decreased from 20 to 10% (p < 0.001). Conclusions: This study shows that Finnish physicians’ ambivalence toward euthanasia and PAS has decreased. The ongoing debate has probably forced physicians to form more solid opinions on these matters. Our study highlights that attitudes toward euthanasia and PAS are still divided within the medical profession.

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Piili, R. P., Louhiala, P., Vänskä, J., & Lehto, J. T. (2022). Ambivalence toward euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has decreased among physicians in Finland. BMC Medical Ethics, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-022-00810-y

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