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Jahn-Kuch, D; Domke, A; Bitsche, S; Stöger, H; Avian, A; Jeitler, K; Posch, N; Siebenhofer, A.
End-of-life decision making by Austrian physicians - a cross-sectional study.
BMC Palliat Care. 2020; 19(1): 4-4. Doi: 10.1186/s12904-019-0509-3 [OPEN ACCESS]
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Führende Autor*innen der Med Uni Graz
Domke Andreas
Jahn-Kuch Daniela
Siebenhofer-Kroitzsch Andrea
Co-Autor*innen der Med Uni Graz
Avian Alexander
Bitsche Sarah Margarethe
Jeitler Klaus
Posch Nicole
Stöger Herbert

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Austria has recently been embroiled in the complex debate on the legalization of measures to end life prematurely. Empirical data on end-of-life decisions made by Austrian physicians barely exists. This study is the first in Austria aimed at finding out how physicians generally approach and make end-of-life therapy decisions. The European end-of-life decisions (EURELD) questionnaire, translated and adapted by Schildmann et al., was used to conduct this cross-sectional postal survey. Questions on palliative care training, legal issues, and use of and satisfaction with palliative care were added. All Austrian specialists in hematology and oncology, a representative sample of doctors specialized in internal medicine, and a sample of general practitioners, were invited to participate in this anonymous postal survey. Five hundred forty-eight questionnaires (response rate: 10.4%) were evaluated. 88.3% of participants had treated a patient who had died in the previous 12 months. 23% of respondents had an additional qualification in palliative medicine. The cause of death in 53.1% of patients was cancer, and 44.8% died at home. In 86.3% of cases, pain relief and / or symptom relief had been intensified. Further treatment had been withheld by 60.0%, and an existing treatment discontinued by 49.1% of respondents. In 5 cases, the respondents had prescribed, provided or administered a drug which had resulted in death. 51.3% of physicians said they would never carry out physician-assisted suicide (PAS), while 30.3% could imagine doing so under certain conditions. 38.5% of respondents supported the current prohibition of PAS, 23.9% opposed it, and 33.2% were undecided. 52.4% of physicians felt the legal situation with respect to measures to end life prematurely was ambiguous. An additional qualification in palliative medicine had no influence on measures taken, or attitudes towards PAS. The majority of doctors perform symptom control in terminally ill patients. PAS is frequently requested but rarely carried out. Attending physicians felt the legal situation was ambiguous. Physicians should therefore receive training in current legislation relating to end-of-life choices and medical decisions. The data collected in this survey will help political decision-makers provide the necessary legal framework for end-of-life medical care.

Find related publications in this database (Keywords)
End-of-life decisions
Quantitative research
Palliative care
Physician-assisted suicide
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