Nurses’ attitudes towards end-of-life decisions in medical practice: a nationwide study in Flanders, Belgium
AbstractWe investigated on a nationwide level the attitudes of nurses towards end-of-life decisions (ELDs) that may hasten death and towards their role in those decisions. We took a representative random sample of 6000 nurses in Flanders, Belgium. Response rate was 62.5%. Most nurses agreed with the practice of withholding/withdrawing potentially life-prolonging treatments (93%), with decisions to alleviate symptoms with possible life-shortening side effects (96%) and with the practice of euthanasia (92%). Their support for the different decisions existed regardless of whether they had cared for terminally ill patients or not. Most nurses also thought that they have an important role to play especially in the ELD-making process. Nurses’ views on their proper role in the administration of drugs in euthanasia and continuous deep sedation showed a large dispersal. Overall, nurses’ work setting determines their opinions on nurses’ role in ELDs. In conclusion, nurses accept a wide variety of ELDs being practiced with terminally ill patients.