Are Medical Ethicists Out of Touch? Practitioner Attitudes in the US and UK Towards Decisions at the End of Life
Dickenson, Donna L.
Journal of Medical Ethics. 2000 Aug; 26(4): 254-260.
Objectives -- To assess whether UK and US health care professionals share the views of medical ethicists about medical futility, withdrawing/withholding treatment, ordinary/extraordinary interventions, and the doctrine of double effect. Design, subjects and setting -- A 138-item attitudial questionnaire completed by 469 UK nurses studying the Open University course on "Death and Dying" was compared with a similar questionnaire administered to 759 US nurses and 687 US doctors taking the Hastings Center course on "Decisions near the End of Life." Results -- Practitioners accept the relevance of concepts widely disparaged by bioethicists: double effect, medical futility, and the distinctions between heroic/ordinary interventions and withholding/withdrawing treatment. Within the UK nurses' group a "rationalist" axis of respondents who describe themselves as having "no religion" are closer to the bioethics consensus on withholding and withhdrawing treatment. Conclusions -- Professionals' beliefs differ substantially from the recommendations of their professional bodies and from majority opinion in bioethics. Bioethicists should be cautious about assuming that their opinions will be readily accepted by practitioners.
Active Euthanasia; Allowing to Die; Assisted Suicide; Attitudes; Bioethics; Comparative Studies; Consensus; Death; Decision Making; Double Effect; Doctors; Ethicists; Euthanasia; Extraordinary Treatment; Futility; Guidelines; Health; Health Care; International Aspects; Life; Nurses; Patient Participation; Physicians; Religion; Suicide; Survey; Terminal Care; Values; Withholding Treatment;
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