Assisted dying in dementia: a systematic review of the international literature on the attitudes of health professionals, patients, carers and the public, and the factors associated with these

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Abstract

Background:

Assisted death and dementia is a controversial topic that, in recent years, has been subject to considerable clinical, ethical and political debate.

Objective:

This paper reviews the international literature on attitudes towards assisted dying in dementia and considers the factors associated with these.

Design:

A systematic literature search was conducted in Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Excerpta Medica Database, PsychINFO and Web of Science between 1992 and August 2013. Electronic and hand searches identified 118 potential relevant studies. Eighteen studies met the full inclusion criteria and were screened using a quality assessment tool.

Results:

Health professionals hold more restrictive views towards assisted dying, which appear less affected by their cultural background, than the public, patients and carers. However, opinions within each population vary according to dementia severity and issues of capacity, as well as differing according to factors such as age, ethnicity, gender and religion of those surveyed. There also appears to be a trend towards more accepting attitudes over time.

Conclusions:

Sociodemographic factors can influence attitudes towards assisted dying. The impact of these, however, may also differ according to the population surveyed. The findings from this review can contribute to current debates and inform clinical practice and future research in this area. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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