Survey: 54% of physicians support assisted suicide

Since 2010, the number of physicians who report they support physician-assisted suicide has grown from 46 percent to 54 percent, according to the Medscape Ethics Report 2014, Part 1: Life, Death and Pain that surveyed more than 17,000 American physicians.

Physician-assisted suicide is a particularly relevant topic for many considering the recent media attention surrounding the death of 29-year-old Portland, Ore.-resident Brittany Maynard, who decided to end her life last month as her terminal brain cancer progressed, according to the survey.

Highlighted below are additional findings from the survey.

  • When asked if physicians would give life-sustaining therapy in a case they considered futile, 19 percent of respondents said they would, 35 percent said they would not and 46 percent said it depends.
  • The number of physicians who said they would give life-sustaining therapy in a case they considered futile was higher among emergency medicine physicians (27 percent), than among cardiologists (18 percent) or oncologists (14 percent).
  • When asked if patients are being withdrawn from life support too soon, 86 percent of physicians responded no. Among the 14 percent who responded yes, some claimed that pressure to end life support was exerted to save costs, either by the hospital or the family paying the bills.
  • When asked if physicians would go against a family's wishes and continue treating a patient whom they felt had a chance to recover, 22 percent said they would, 28 percent said they would not and 50 percent said it depends.
  • When asked if it was right to provide intensive care to a newborn who will die soon or survive but have an "objectively terrible quality of life," 31 percent said they would, 27 said they would not and 43 percent said it depends.
  • When asked if physicians would perform an abortion if it was against their personal beliefs, 44 percent said they would, 41 percent responded they would not and 15 percent said it depends.
  • When asked if a physician would hide information about a terminal diagnosis to bolster a patient's attitude, 76 percent said they would not, 21 percent said they would if there was a chance of survival and 3 percent said they would unless the patient was going to die immediately.

For more survey findings, click here.

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