Veterinary surgeons' attitudes towards physician-assisted suicide: an empirical study of Swedish experts on euthanasia

Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (5):295-298 (2011)
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Abstract

Aim To examine the hypothesis that knowledge about physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia is associated with a more restrictive attitude towards PAS. Design A questionnaire about attitudes towards PAS, including prioritisation of arguments pro and contra, was sent to Swedish veterinary surgeons. The results were compared with those from similar surveys of attitudes among the general public and physicians. Participants All veterinary surgeons who were members of the Swedish Veterinary Association and had provided an email address (n=2421). Main outcome measures Similarities or differences in response pattern between veterinary surgeons, physicians and the general public. Results The response pattern among veterinary surgeons and the general public was almost similar in all relevant aspects. Of the veterinarians 75% (95% CI 72% to 78%) were in favour of PAS, compared with 73% (95% CI 69% to 77%) among the general public. Only 10% (95% CI 5% to 15%) of the veterinary surgeons were against PAS, compared with 12% (95% CI 5% to 19%) among the general public. Finally, 15% (95% CI 10% to 21%) of veterinarians were undecided, compared with 15% (95% CI 8% to 22%) among the general public. Physicians had a more restrictive attitude to PAS than the general public. Conclusions Since veterinary surgeons have frequent practical experience of euthanasia in animals, they do have knowledge about what euthanasia really is. Veterinary surgeons and the general public had an almost similar response pattern. Accordingly it seems difficult to maintain that knowledge about euthanasia is unambiguously associated with a restrictive attitude towards PAS

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