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Why do we want the right to die? A systematic review of the international literature on the views of patients, carers and the public on assisted dying

Hendry, M., Pasterfield, D., Lewis, R., Carter, Ben Richard, Hodgson, D. and Wilkinson, C. 2013. Why do we want the right to die? A systematic review of the international literature on the views of patients, carers and the public on assisted dying. Palliative Medicine 27 (1) , pp. 13-26. 10.1177/0269216312463623

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Abstract

Background: Assisted dying is legal in four European countries and three American states. Elsewhere, particularly in more affluent or mainly Protestant countries, it remains controversial. Dominant headlines feature professional (medical, legal, religious) arguments versus celebrity campaigners; ordinary people are less clearly represented. Aim: To synthesise the international evidence of people’s views and attitudes towards assisted dying in order to inform current debate about this controversial issue. Design: Systematic review and mixed method synthesis of qualitative and survey data Data sources: Eleven electronic databases from inception to October 2011; bibliographies of included studies Review Methods: Two reviewers independently screened papers and appraised quality. Qualitative results were extracted verbatim; survey results were summarised in a table. Qualitative data were synthesised using framework methods and survey results integrated where they supported, contrasted or added to the themes identified. Results: Sixteen qualitative studies and 94 surveys were included; many participants considered the immediate relevance of assisted dying for them. Themes related to poor quality of life, a good quality of death, potential abuse of assisted dying and the importance of individual stance. People valued autonomy in death as much as in life. Attitudes were diverse, complex and related to definitions of unbearable suffering including physical, psycho-social and existential factors and were consistent regardless of social, economic, legal and health-care contexts. Conclusion: Our review sheds light on ordinary people’s perspectives about assisted dying, when they are ill or disabled. Unbearable suffering is a key construct, and common factors are revealed that lead people to ask for help to die. The consistency of international views indicates a mandate for legislative and medical systems worldwide to listen and understand this.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1001 Forensic Medicine. Medical jurisprudence. Legal medicine
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0269-2163
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:55
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/87840

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