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The role of nurses in physician-assisted dying

Date:
May 17, 2010
Source:
Canadian Medical Association Journal
Summary:
Nurses in Belgium who administer life-ending drugs in euthanasia and in cases without explicit patient request often act outside of the law, according to a new study.

Nurses in Belgium who administer life-ending drugs in euthanasia and in cases without explicit patient request often act outside of the law, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

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Euthanasia is legal in Belgium if performed by physicians under strict requirements of due care, one of which is that they discuss the request with the nurses involved. Little is known about the role of nurses in euthanasia and in the use of life-ending drugs without a patient's request.

The study looked at the experiences of nurses in Belgium with euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions. The study, with 1265 respondents, had a response rate of 75.8%. Of this number 128 nurses reported that the last patient in their care who had a life-shortening end-of-life decision received euthanasia and 120 nurses reported on a patient who received life-ending drugs without the patient posing an explicit request.

In using life-ending drugs without explicit request, 48% of nurses helped prepare drugs, 56% were present during administering and 45% administered the drugs, mostly without the physician co-administering (82%) but under physician orders (98%). In euthanasia where the law states that it has to be performed by a physician, 12% of nurses administered the drugs, also mostly without the physician co-administering (86%) but always under physician orders.

"Particularly when due care criteria are not fulfilled, such as the patient poses no explicit request, nurses, next to the physician, risk legal prosecutions," write Els Inghelbrecht, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and coauthors. "Nurses stand in a vulnerable position as they can get stuck between performing a physician's orders and performing illegal acts."

The authors recommend further research as well as professional regulation and guidelines to clarify nurses' involvement in euthanasia and other end-of-life practices.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Canadian Medical Association Journal. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Inghelbrecht, Els, Bilsen, Johan, Mortier, Freddy, Deliens, Luc. The role of nurses in physician-assisted deaths in Belgium. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2010; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.091881

Cite This Page:

Canadian Medical Association Journal. "The role of nurses in physician-assisted dying." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100517144814.htm>.
Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2010, May 17). The role of nurses in physician-assisted dying. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100517144814.htm
Canadian Medical Association Journal. "The role of nurses in physician-assisted dying." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100517144814.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

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