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