Health care professionals' comprehension of the legal status of end-of-life practices in Quebec: study of clinical scenarios
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SourceCanadian Family Physician, 61, 4, (2015), pp. e196-203
Article / Letter to editor
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Canadian Family Physician
SubjectRadboudumc 0: Other Research RIHS: Radboud Institute for Health Sciences
OBJECTIVE: To determine health care professionals' understanding of the current legal status of different end-of-life practices and their future legal status if medical aid in dying were legalized, and to identify factors associated with misunderstanding surrounding the current legal status. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey using 6 clinical scenarios developed from a validated European questionnaire and from a validated classification of end-of-life practices. SETTING: Quebec. PARTICIPANTS: Health care professionals (physicians and nurses). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Perceptions of the current legal status of the given scenarios and whether or not the practices would be authorized in the event that medical aid in dying were legalized. RESULTS: Among the respondents (n = 271, response rate 88.0%), more than 98% knew that the administration or prescription of lethal medication was currently illegal. However, 45.8% wrongly thought that it was not permitted to withdraw a potentially life-prolonging treatment at the patient's request, and this misconception was more common among nurses and professionals who had received their diplomas longer ago. Only 39.5% believed that, in the event that medical aid in dying were legalized, the use of lethal medication would be permitted at the patient's request, and 34.6% believed they would be able to give such medication to an incompetent patient upon a relative's request. CONCLUSION: Health care professionals knew which medical practices were illegal, but some wrongly believed that current permitted practices were not legal. There were various interpretations of what would or would not be allowed if medical aid in dying were legalized. Education on the clinical implications of end-of-life practice legislation should be promoted.
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