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Attitudes toward assisted suicide requests in the context of severe and persistent mental illness: A survey of psychiatrists in Switzerland


Hodel, M A; Hoff, Paul; Irwin, S A; Biller-Andorno, Nikola; Riese, Florian; Trachsel, Manuel (2019). Attitudes toward assisted suicide requests in the context of severe and persistent mental illness: A survey of psychiatrists in Switzerland. Palliative & Supportive Care, 17(6):621-627.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Switzerland is among the few countries worldwide where a request for assisted suicide (AS) can be granted on the basis of a primary psychiatric diagnosis. Psychiatrists play an increasingly important role in this regard, especially when the request for AS arises in the context of suffering caused by severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI). The objective of the survey was to assess general attitudes among psychiatrists in Switzerland regarding AS requests from patients with SPMI.
METHOD: In a cross-sectional survey of 1,311 German-speaking psychiatrists in Switzerland, participants were asked about their attitude to AS for patients with SPMI, based on three case vignettes of patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, treatment-refractory depression, or severe persistent schizophrenia.ResultFrom a final sample of 457 psychiatrists (a response rate of 34.9%) whose mean age was 57.8 years, 48.6% of respondents did not support access to AS for persons diagnosed with SPMI, 21.2% were neutral, and 29.3% indicated some degree of support for access. In relation to the case vignettes, a slightly higher percentage of respondents supported the patient's wish to seek AS: 35.4% for those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, 32.1% for those diagnosed with depression, and 31.4% for those diagnosed with schizophrenia.Significance of resultsAlthough a majority of the responding psychiatrists did not support AS for SPMI patients, about one-third would have supported the wishes of patients in the case vignettes. In light of the increasing number of psychiatric patients seeking AS and the continuing liberalization of AS practices, it is important to understand and take account of psychiatrists' perspectives.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Switzerland is among the few countries worldwide where a request for assisted suicide (AS) can be granted on the basis of a primary psychiatric diagnosis. Psychiatrists play an increasingly important role in this regard, especially when the request for AS arises in the context of suffering caused by severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI). The objective of the survey was to assess general attitudes among psychiatrists in Switzerland regarding AS requests from patients with SPMI.
METHOD: In a cross-sectional survey of 1,311 German-speaking psychiatrists in Switzerland, participants were asked about their attitude to AS for patients with SPMI, based on three case vignettes of patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, treatment-refractory depression, or severe persistent schizophrenia.ResultFrom a final sample of 457 psychiatrists (a response rate of 34.9%) whose mean age was 57.8 years, 48.6% of respondents did not support access to AS for persons diagnosed with SPMI, 21.2% were neutral, and 29.3% indicated some degree of support for access. In relation to the case vignettes, a slightly higher percentage of respondents supported the patient's wish to seek AS: 35.4% for those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, 32.1% for those diagnosed with depression, and 31.4% for those diagnosed with schizophrenia.Significance of resultsAlthough a majority of the responding psychiatrists did not support AS for SPMI patients, about one-third would have supported the wishes of patients in the case vignettes. In light of the increasing number of psychiatric patients seeking AS and the continuing liberalization of AS practices, it is important to understand and take account of psychiatrists' perspectives.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > General Nursing
Social Sciences & Humanities > Clinical Psychology
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Language:English
Date:1 December 2019
Deposited On:04 Jun 2019 13:30
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 10:47
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:1478-9515
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/S1478951519000233
PubMed ID:31131780

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