End-of-Life Issues as Perceived by Lebanese Judges
Adib, Salim M.
Kawas, Sami H.
Hajjar, Theresa A.
Developing World Bioethics 2003 May; 3(1): 10-26
Objectives: to assess the attitudes of judges in Beirut, Lebanon, regarding end-of-life issues such as assisted suicide and withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment. Subjects and Methods: 85% of all currently acting and in-training judges and public prosecutors in Beirut (N=135) were surveyed using a mailed questionnaire that assessed attitudes toward intervention in five hypothetical cases. The associations of attitudes, on a scale from least to most `sympathetic' toward assisting those who desire to end their lives, were measured by a variety of personal, social and professional variables. Results: younger individuals, and those who have no yet been formally appointed as judges, were significantly more sympathetic to withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining devices when patients or their proxies requested it, and more in support of assisted suicide. Gender, religious denomination, religious practice, and personal experience with prolonged illness leading to death among close friends or family, were generally not significant predictors of respondents' attitudes. Years of experience as a judge correlated strongly with age and may have contributed to its predictive effect. Discussion and conclusions: a relatively more sympathetic attitude among younger judges, many of them women, and among trainees, may reflect a historical evolution in younger age-groups in Lebanon today. A survey of opinions in the public may help reach a more conclusive understanding in this regard. In any case, judges in Lebanon will remain important partners in the debate, as they will continue to be the final interpreters of the letter of the law in end-of-life issues.
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