A national survey of Italian physicians’ attitudes towards end-of-life decisions following the death of Eluana Englaro View Full Text


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Article Info

DATE

2011-02-02

AUTHORS

Biagio Solarino, Francesco Bruno, Giacomo Frati, Alessandro Dell’Erba, Paola Frati

ABSTRACT

BackgroundEthical issues regarding patient care have recently been raised in Italy by the case of Eluana Englaro, a 36-year-old woman who remained in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for 17 years. There are no specific laws on the books in Italy regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. In November 2008, a controversial decision by the Italian Supreme Court granted the woman’s father his wish to discontinue nutrition and hydration provided to her. Because of this historic decision, the authors carried out a survey of Italian physicians’ beliefs regarding end-of-life practices.MethodsA questionnaire was e-mailed to 70,000 physicians working for the Italian Public Health System and University Medical Hospitals.ResultsA total of 22,219 doctors responded to the questionnaire (32.3%), of whom 17,252 (77.6%) had some experience in treating PVS patients. Nearly 70% of responding doctors were aware of PVS diagnostic criteria; most of them (61%) considered tube feeding to be a medical therapy, and 66% of respondents believed that withdrawal of assisted nutrition and hydration (ANH) might be appropriate depending on the patient’s wishes. Moreover, even though 50% of doctors surveyed were not in favor of euthanasia, a significant percentage (42%) did approve of it, while 8% of this sample was uncertain.ConclusionsItalian doctors probably have the least experience in end-of-life decisions in Europe, therefore this national survey is a great chance to understand their authentic opinions regarding such remarkable issues. There is broad consensus that a clear legislative position regarding euthanasia and ANH is needed. More... »

PAGES

542-549

References to SciGraph publications

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    http://scigraph.springernature.com/pub.10.1007/s00134-011-2132-5

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    39 schema:description BackgroundEthical issues regarding patient care have recently been raised in Italy by the case of Eluana Englaro, a 36-year-old woman who remained in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for 17 years. There are no specific laws on the books in Italy regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. In November 2008, a controversial decision by the Italian Supreme Court granted the woman’s father his wish to discontinue nutrition and hydration provided to her. Because of this historic decision, the authors carried out a survey of Italian physicians’ beliefs regarding end-of-life practices.MethodsA questionnaire was e-mailed to 70,000 physicians working for the Italian Public Health System and University Medical Hospitals.ResultsA total of 22,219 doctors responded to the questionnaire (32.3%), of whom 17,252 (77.6%) had some experience in treating PVS patients. Nearly 70% of responding doctors were aware of PVS diagnostic criteria; most of them (61%) considered tube feeding to be a medical therapy, and 66% of respondents believed that withdrawal of assisted nutrition and hydration (ANH) might be appropriate depending on the patient’s wishes. Moreover, even though 50% of doctors surveyed were not in favor of euthanasia, a significant percentage (42%) did approve of it, while 8% of this sample was uncertain.ConclusionsItalian doctors probably have the least experience in end-of-life decisions in Europe, therefore this national survey is a great chance to understand their authentic opinions regarding such remarkable issues. There is broad consensus that a clear legislative position regarding euthanasia and ANH is needed.
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