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Dying patients with cancer reflected on implications of euthanasia

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J Eliott

Dr J Eliott, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia;


How do dying patients with cancer talk about making end-of-life medical decisions, including euthanasia?


Qualitative description guided by a social constructionist approach to analysis.


Hospital palliative and oncology clinics in Australia.


28 patients 39–79 years of age (mean age 61 y, 54% men) who had terminal cancer, were in the final phase of illness, and were aware that they had about 3 months to live.


Patients were interviewed about making end-of-life treatment decisions, starting with questions about do-not-resuscitate decisions. Patients who brought up the issue of euthanasia (n = 13) were encouraged to talk about it; those who did not were invited to talk about it. Patients were invited to provide their own definition of euthanasia, and discussions about it ranged from 200 to 2000 words. Interviews concluded with questions about other topics (eg, complementary and alternative medicine and hope). Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, coded, and analysed. Analysis focused on how patients talked about euthanasia, used language to justify a position taken, and …

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  • Source of funding: Cancer Council Australia.