Attitudes on euthanasia among medical students and doctors in Sri Lanka: a cross sectional study

BMC Medical Ethics 22 (1):1-8 (2021)
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Abstract

Background Euthanasia is a topic of intense ethical debate and it is illegal in most countries at present, including Sri Lanka. The aim of this descriptive cross-sectional study of medical students and practicing doctors was to explore the acceptance of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, and factors influencing this opinion. Methods A customised online questionnaire which explored opinions on euthanasia was administered to first and final year medical undergraduates in University of Colombo and practicing doctors with more than 5 years of work experience at The National Hospital of Sri Lanka. Attitudes on euthanasia and PAS were also assessed with the attitudes towards euthanasia Scale, which is a 10-item questionnaire. Results A total of 425 individuals responded, which included 143 first-year medical undergraduates, 141 final-year medical undergraduates and 141 practicing doctors. More participants favoured legalizing euthanasia than those directly opposing it, but a significant proportion remained undecided. The mean scores of ATE questionnaire from the whole sample were generally unfavourable towards euthanasia/PAS. Accepting euthanasia as an option for oneself was the strongest predictor of favouring euthanasia/PAS or supporting its legalization. Conclusion In this cross-sectional survey, more respondents supported legalisation of euthanasia in Sri Lanka than those openly opposing it. Yet, a significant minority that responded as “undecided” for legalisation, were more likely to have unfavourable ATE.

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