Nurses’ attitudes towards euthanasia in conflict with professional ethical guidelines

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Abstract

Background:

Despite the significant role of nurses in end-of-life care, their attitudes towards euthanasia are under-represented both in the current literature and the controversial debate that is ongoing in several countries.

Research questions:

What are the attitudes towards euthanasia among Finnish nurses? Which characteristics are associated with those attitudes?

Research design:

Cross-sectional web-based survey.

Participants and research context:

A total of 1003 nurses recruited via the members’ bulletin of the Finnish Nurses Association and social media.

Ethical considerations:

Ethical approval was obtained from the Committee on Research Ethics of the university to which the authors were affiliated.

Findings:

The majority (74.3%) of the participants would accept euthanasia as part of Finnish healthcare, and 61.8% considered that Finland would benefit from a law permitting euthanasia. Most of the nurses (89.9%) thought that a person must have the right to decide on his or her own death; 77.4% of them considered it likely that they would themselves make a request for euthanasia in certain situations.

Discussion:

The value of self-determination and the ability to choose the moment and manner of one’s death are emphasized in the nurses’ attitudes towards euthanasia.

Conclusion:

A continuous dialogue about euthanasia and nurses’ shared values is crucial due to the conflict between nurses’ attitudes and current ethical guidelines on nursing.

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