Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: A white paper from the European Association for Palliative Care

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Abstract

Background:

In recognition of the ongoing discussion on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, the Board of Directors of the European Association for Palliative Care commissioned this white paper from the palliative care perspective.

Aim:

This white paper aims to provide an ethical framework for palliative care professionals on euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. It also aims to provide an overview on the available evidence as well as a discourse of ethical principles related to these issues.

Design:

Starting from a 2003 European Association for Palliative Care position paper, 21 statements were drafted and submitted to a five-round Delphi process

Participants:

A panel with 17 experts commented on the paper in round 1. Board members of national palliative care or hospice associations that are collective members of European Association for Palliative Care were invited to an online survey in rounds 2 and 3. The expert panel and the European Association for Palliative Care board members participated in rounds 4 and 5. This final version was adopted as an official position paper of the European Association for Palliative Care in April 2015.

Results:

Main topics of the white paper are concepts and definitions of palliative care, its values and philosophy, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, key issues on the patient and the organizational level. The consensus process confirmed the 2003 European Association for Palliative Care white paper and its position on the relationship between palliative care and euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Conclusion:

The European Association for Palliative Care feels that it is important to contribute to informed public debates on these issues. Complete consensus seems to be unachievable due to incompatible normative frameworks that clash.

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