Help Is on the Way

Those who despair at religious politics governing the issues of life and death can take hope from a report showing that 10 years ago medical professionals were the ones making and acting upon euthanasia decisions.

In "The Role of Critical Care Nurses in Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide," a study in the May 23, 1996, New England Journal of Medicine, author David A. Asch reported the results of a survey of a thousand nurses, 852 of whom worked solely in adult ICUs. Here were some of his findings:

A total of 141 of the 852 (17 percent) reported that they had received requests from patients or family members to perform euthanasia or assist in suicide.

Of the total, 129 reported that they had engaged in such practices.

Thirty-five (4 percent) reported that they had hastened a patient's death by only pretending to provide life-sustaining treatment ordered by a physician.

Some nurses reported engaging in these practices without the request or advance knowledge of physicians or others. The method of euthanasia most commonly described was the administration of a high dose of an opiate to a terminally ill patient.

Additional reporting: Nicole Duarte

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