Public opinion regarding end-of-life decisions: Influence of prognosis, practice and process

Peter A. Singer, Sujit Choudhry, Jane Armstrong, Eric M. Meslin, Frederick H. Lowy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of changing key factors in survey questions on public opinion regarding end-of-life decisions. These factors were: (a) patient prognosis (likely vs unlikely to recover from the illness); (b) end-of-life practice (foregoing treatment vs assisted suicide vs euthanasia); and (c) and decision making process (competent patient vs incompetent patient based on living will vs incompetent patient based on family wishes). A representative quota sample of 2019 Canadians 18 years of age or older were surveyed using a 13-item questionnaire with 12 items eliciting attitudes towards end-of-life decisions. The questions were systematically varied according to three key factors: patient prognosis, end-of-life practice and decision making process. One item assessed whether respondents had completed a living will. In the case of a decision to forgo life-sustaining treatment in a competent patient, public approval was 85% if the person was unlikely to recover and 35% if the person was likely to recover. In the case of a competent patient unlikely to recover, public approval was 85% for forgoing life-sustaining treatment, 58% for assisted suicide, and 66% for euthanasia. In the case of forgoing life-sustaining treatment for a patient unlikely to recover, public approval was 85% for a competent patient, 88% for an incompetent patient who had expressed his/her wishes in advance through a living will, and 76% for an incompetent patient based on a family's request. The influence of these key factors was similar in other cases examined. Ten percent of Canadians said they had completed a living will. It was concluded that patient prognosis has a major effect, end-of-life practice a moderate effect, and decision making process a minor effect on public opinion regarding end-of-life decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1517-1521
Number of pages5
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume41
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Public Opinion
public opinion
decision making process
suicide
assisted suicide
euthanasia
decision making
Living Wills
human being
Assisted Suicide
Decision Making
Euthanasia
illness
effect
decision
Public opinion
End of life
End of Life
questionnaire
approval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Development

Cite this

Public opinion regarding end-of-life decisions : Influence of prognosis, practice and process. / Singer, Peter A.; Choudhry, Sujit; Armstrong, Jane; Meslin, Eric M.; Lowy, Frederick H.

In: Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 41, No. 11, 1995, p. 1517-1521.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Singer, Peter A. ; Choudhry, Sujit ; Armstrong, Jane ; Meslin, Eric M. ; Lowy, Frederick H. / Public opinion regarding end-of-life decisions : Influence of prognosis, practice and process. In: Social Science and Medicine. 1995 ; Vol. 41, No. 11. pp. 1517-1521.
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