Emotional and psychological effects of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on participating physicians

Kenneth Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This is a review and evaluation of medical and public literature regarding the reported emotional and psychological effects of participation in physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia on the involved physicians. Materials and Methods: Articles in medical journals, legislative investigations and the public press were obtained and reviewed to determine what has been reported regarding the effects on physicians who have been personally involved in PAS and euthanasia. Results and Discussion: The physician is centrally involved in PAS and euthanasia, and the emotional and psychological effects on the participating physician can be substantial. The shift away from the fundamental values of medicine to heal and promote human wholeness can have significant effects on many participating physicians. Doctors describe being profoundly adversely affected, being shocked by the suddenness of the death, being caught up in the patient's drive for assisted suicide, having a sense of powerlessness, and feeling isolated. There is evidence of pressure on and intimidation of doctors by some patients to assist in suicide. The effect of countertransference in the doctor-patient relationship may influence physician involvement in PAS and euthanasia. Conclusion: Many doctors who have participated in euthanasia and/or PAS are adversely affected emotionally and psychologically by their experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-200
Number of pages14
JournalIssues in Law and Medicine
Volume21
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006

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Assisted Suicide
assisted suicide
Euthanasia
euthanasia
physician
Psychology
Physicians
Suicide
Emotions
Medicine
Pressure
suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Health Policy

Cite this

Emotional and psychological effects of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on participating physicians. / Stevens, Kenneth.

In: Issues in Law and Medicine, Vol. 21, No. 3, 03.2006, p. 187-200.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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