Issues of Death and Dying: The Perspective of Critical Care Nurses
Australian Critical Care. 1997 Sep; 10(3): 81-84, 86-87.
A major shift in the care of terminally ill people, due to advances in technology, and the development of legislation regarding patient self-determination and autonomy, has occurred over recent years. Critical care nurses (CCNs) are involved daily in issues of death and dying and are very aware of the needs, fears and psychosocial issues of patients and their families. Professional associations see a legitimate role for nurses in assisting the dying to achieve a dignified death. For legislation, policies and guidelines surrounding end-of-life issues to be effective, and to assist nursing staff with these sensitive, often difficult concerns, it is important that data on the opinions and perspectives of CCNs be objectively obtained. In a study by the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Queensland, questionnaires were sent to 1100 randomly sampled community members and almost 1200 health professionals (nurses, general practitioners and specialists), including 299 CCNs. The response rate of CCNs to a 30-page postal questionnaire was 79 per cent (n = 231), indicating those nurses' high levels of interest in and/or concern regarding this area. CCNs supported the use of advance directives, the appointment of proxies and the need for doctors and nurses to give sufficient medication to relieve pain, even if this hastened the death of the patient. In addition, CCNs, more than any other professional group, supported the right of the terminally ill patient to physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, their responses being very similar to those of community members. CCNs clearly face issues which, from legal, medical and ethical viewpoints, cause them concern. In sharing their personal experiences, CCNs stressed the need for more communication between doctors and patients, as well as between doctors and nurses. In addition, CCNs saw a clear role for themselves as advocates for patients/families in the decision-making process.
Advance Directives; Allowing to Die; Assisted Suicide; Attitudes; Attitudes to Death; Autonomy; Communication; Consent; Death; Decision Making; Drugs; Doctors; Euthanasia; Guidelines; Health; Legal Aspects; Legislation; Life; Medicine; Nurse's Role; Nurses; Pain; Palliative Care; Patient Advocacy; Patients; Preventive Medicine; Questionnaires; Suicide; Survey; Technology; Terminal Care; Terminally Ill; Third Party Consent; Voluntary Euthanasia;
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Healthy Ageing, Healthy Dying: Community and Health Professional Perspectives on End-of-Life Decision-Making Steinberg, M.A.; Cartwright, C.M.; Najman, J.M.; MacDonald, S.M.; and Williams, G. (1996)