Physician-assisted suicide: Interviews with patients with dementia and their families

F. C. Daskal, G. W. Hougham, G. A. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: To determine (1) the feasibility of including patients with early-stage dementia in a study of attitudes toward physician-assisted suicide (PAS); (2) whether the views held by patients with dementia and family members toward PAS differ from those of the general population; and (3) whether the views of patients and family members toward PAS differ from one other. Design: Separate, face-to-face interviews with patients with early-stage dementia and their closest family member or potential proxy decision maker. Participants: Twenty-six patients with early-stage dementia (mean age, 78 years) and 24 pair-matched proxies. Subjects were recruited from the University of Chicago outpatient geriatrics clinic, the Northwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center, and the Greater Chicagoland Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Results: Patients and family members were very interested in discussing PAS in this pilot study. Out of a convenience sample of 29 patients approached, the authors successfully interviewed 26 patients. Across three core questions, approximately 50% of the 26 patients were, respectively, generally in favor of PAS (n = 12), in favor of PAS for persons with Alzheimer's disease (n = 13), and in favor of PAS as a personal choice (n = 14). More than 50% of the proxies were, respectively, generally in favor of PAS (n= 14), in favor of PAS for persons with Alzheimer's disease (n = 13), and in favor of PAS as a personal choice (n = 17). In a pair-wise comparison, about 50% of the pairs gave the same responses to these core questions about PAS (52%, 50%, and 52% agreement, respectively). Conclusions: It is feasible to interview patients with early-stage dementia and Alzheimer's disease in surveys such as this regarding their health care preferences. The patients' views and those of their proxies appear to be similar to views toward PAS held by the general population, although significant differences exist between patients and family members. Views of patients with early-stage dementia can be included in individual and policy- level advance care planning to a wider extent than previous experience had suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-298
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Long-Term Care
Volume7
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 3 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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