Multifaceted Nature of Euthanasia: Perceptions of Finnish Registered Nurses

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Abstract

Euthanasia and its legalization are complex issues, which are intensely debated in many countries. In the debates, little attention is paid to the perceptions of nurses, despite their important role in providing health care for dying patients. This study aims to contribute to the ongoing debate by elucidating nurses’ rarely explored perceptions of euthanasia and its legalization in Finland. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 17 registered nurses between November 2012 and January 2013 and analyzed by inductive content analysis. The participants expressed conflicting perceptions of euthanasia and its legalization related to professional identity, ethics, religious conviction, and work experience. Furthermore, nurses reported concerns arising from a lack of reliable information regarding euthanasia. Participants considered the legalization of euthanasia probable in coming years. The investigation of existing laws and practices in countries where euthanasia is already legal was seen as a helpful prerequisite for legalization in Finland. Drifting toward a “slippery slope” was considered the biggest risk, while improving the ability to help patients in agony was regarded as a potentially positive outcome of the legalization of euthanasia. The results of this study highlight a need for more qualitative and quantitative research concerning nurses’ attitudes toward euthanasia.

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