Physician Attitudes to Voluntary Assisted Dying: A Scoping Review

BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 2020

DOI: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2020-002192

24 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020

See all articles by Jodhi Rutherford

Jodhi Rutherford

Australian Centre for Health Law Research

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Ben White

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 20, 2020

Abstract

Background: Voluntary assisted dying became legal in the Australian state of Victoria on 19 June 2019 and will be legal in Western Australia from 2021. Other Australian states are progressing similar law reform processes. In Australia and internationally, doctors are central to the operation of all legal voluntary assisted dying regimes. It is broadly accepted that doctors, as a profession, are less in favor of voluntary assisted dying law reform than the rest of the community. To date there has been little analysis of the factors that motivate doctors’ support or opposition to legalized voluntary assisted dying in Australia.

Aim: To review all studies reporting the attitudes of Australian doctors regarding the legalization of voluntary assisted dying, including their willingness to participate in it, and to observe and record common themes in existing attitudinal data.

Design: Scoping review and thematic analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.

Data sources: CINAHL, Embase, Scopus, PubMed and Informit were searched from inception to June 2019.

Results: 26 publications detailing 19 studies were identified. Thematic analysis of quantitative and qualitative findings was performed. Three overarching themes emerged. ‘Attitudes towards regulation’ encompassed doctors’ orientation towards legalization, the shortcomings of binary categories of support or opposition, and doctors’ concerns about additional regulation of their professional practices. ‘Professional and personal impact of legalization’ described tensions between palliative care and voluntary assisted dying, and the emotional and social impact of being providers of voluntary assisted dying. ‘Practical considerations regarding access’ considered doctors’ concerns about eligibility criteria and their willingness to provide voluntary assisted dying.

Conclusion: A detailed understanding of medical perspectives about VAD would facilitate the design of legislative models that take better account of doctors’ concerns. This may facilitate their greater participation in VAD and help address potential access issues arising from availability of willing doctors.

Keywords: voluntary assisted dying, assisted dying, end of life law, law reform, doctors, medical profession

JEL Classification: K00, K32, I1, I18, I12

Suggested Citation

Rutherford, Jodhi and Willmott, Lindy and White, Ben, Physician Attitudes to Voluntary Assisted Dying: A Scoping Review (June 20, 2020). BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 2020 , DOI: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2020-002192, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3655888

Jodhi Rutherford

Australian Centre for Health Law Research ( email )

2 George Street
Brisbane, Queensland 4000
Australia

Lindy Willmott

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/willmott/

Ben White (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology - Faculty of Law ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, QLD 4000
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/whiteb/

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