Palliative & Supportive Care

Attitudes toward euthanasia and physician assisted suicide: A survey among medical students, oncology clinicians, and palliative care specialists

M.C.  MARINI  M.D. a1 , H.  NEUENSCHWANDER  M.D. a1 and F.  STIEFEL  M.D. a2 c1
a1 Service of Palliative Care–IOSI, Lugano, Switzerland
a2 Psychiatry Service, University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland

Article author query
marini mc   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
neuenschwander h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
stiefel f   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Objective: The aim of this study was to compare the results of surveys about attitudes toward euthanasia and related issues that was conducted among palliative care specialists, health care professionals of a cancer center, and first- and second-year medical students.

Methods: By means of an anonymous questionnaire with different hypothetical scenarios concerning physician assisted suicide (PAS) and related issues, 726 members of the Swiss Association for Palliative Care (SAPC), 148 health care professionals of the Institute of Oncology of Italian speaking Switzerland (IOSI), and 140 medical students of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, were surveyed.

Results: Among palliative care specialists a decreasing number supported PAS, direct active euthanasia (DAE), DAE for psychiatric patients, DAE in incompetent patients, and life terminating acts without explicit request (LAWER). Professionals of the cancer center were more in favor of DAE and PAS than palliative care specialists, but less in favor than medical students.

Significance of results: Significant variations among different professionals exist in attitudes toward euthanasia. The hypothesis that familiarity with the care of severely ill and dying patients is an important underlying factor explaining variance has been confirmed by these surveys.

(Received March 16 2006)
(Accepted May 13 2006)

Key Words: Palliative care; Euthanasia; Survey; Physician assisted suicide.

c1 Corresponding author: F. Stiefel, M.D., Psychiatry Service, University Hospital, CH-1011 Lausanne, Switzerland. E-mail: