Physician Attitudes to Voluntary Assisted Dying: A Scoping Review
BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 2020
24 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020
Date Written: June 20, 2020
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: Suggested Citation