Intending, hastening and causing death in non-treatment decisions: a physician interview study

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Abstract

Purpose

To explore how physicians analyse their non-treatment decisions in light of the concepts of hastening, causing and intending the patient's death.

Methods

Sixteen Norwegian physicians from relevant specialties were interviewed and the results analysed by systematic text condensation, a qualitative analysis framework.

Results

The physicians' chief dilemma in non-treatment decisions was the attempt to achieve the proper balance for the level of treatment at life's end. Respondents framed their challenges in medical and not ethical terms. They treated the concepts of intending, hastening and causing the patient's death as alien to their practical deliberations and, for many, irrelevant to the moral appraisal of their end-of-life practices.

Conclusions

The core concepts of traditional medico-ethical analyses of end-of-life decision-making do not map the practical terrain well. Research on physician intentions must be designed and interpreted in light of this.

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