Euthanasia and assisted suicide in Dutch hospitals: the role of nurses
Version of Record online: 12 MAY 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Journal of Clinical Nursing
Volume 17, Issue 12, pages 1618–1626, June 2008
How to Cite
Van Bruchem-van de Scheur, G., Van Der Arend, A. J., Huijer Abu-Saad, H., Van Wijmen, F. C., Spreeuwenberg, C. and Ter Meulen, R. H. (2008), Euthanasia and assisted suicide in Dutch hospitals: the role of nurses. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17: 1618–1626. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.02145.x
- Issue online: 28 JUN 2008
- Version of Record online: 12 MAY 2008
- Submitted for publication: 10 January 2007 Accepted for publication: 26 June 2007
- physician-assisted suicide;
Aim. To report a study on the role of nurses in euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in hospitals, conducted as part of a wider study on the role of nurses in medical end-of-life decisions.
Background. Issues concerning legislation and regulation with respect to the role of nurses in euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide gave the Dutch Minister for Health reason to commission a study on the role of nurses in medical end-of-life decisions in hospitals, homecare and nursing homes.
Method. A questionnaire was sent in 2003 to 692 nurses employed in 73 hospital locations. The response suitable for analysis was from 532 (76·9%) nurses. Data were quantitatively analysed using spss version 11.5 for Windows.
Results. In almost half of the cases (45·1%), the nurse was the first with whom patients discussed their request for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Consultations between physicians and nurses quite often took place (78·8%). In several cases (15·4%), nurses themselves administered the euthanatics with or without a physician. It is not self-evident that hospitals have guidelines concerning euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide.
Conclusions. In the decision-making process, the consultation between the physician and the nurse needs improvement. In administering the euthanatics, physicians should take responsibility and should not leave these actions to nurses. Guidelines may play an important role to improve the collaboration between physicians and nurses and to prevent procedural, ethical and legal misunderstandings.
Relevance to clinical practice. Nurses in clinical practice are often closely involved in the last stage of a person's life. Consequently, they are often confronted with caring for patients requesting euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. The results provide relevant information and may help nurses in defining their role in euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, especially in case these practices should become legalised.