following Fact Sheet has been prepared by the South Australian Voluntary Euthanasia
Society (SAVES). For
further information visit their website at http://www.saves.asn.au
Voluntary Euthanasia Society
nursing opinion was tested in Victoria in 1991 in a survey by the Centre
for Human Bioethics, Monash University (Kuhse/Singer) (1), and in 1994
in a survey by a Senior Lecturer at LaTrobe University and the Director
of the Caritas Christi and Order of Malta Hospice Home Care Service Aranda/O'Connor)
(2). Both surveys were by mailed questionnaire.
drew a random sample of 1,942 nurses from the Nursing Council Register.
They received 943 responses, a return rate of 49%.
surveyed two groups of palliative care and oncology nurses of whom 171
responded, a return rate of 45%. They used the Kuhse/Singer questions,
but also asked participants to supply descriptive information "about their
experiences with euthanasia".
main findings (as percentages of those answering the particular question)
Nurses who had been asked to: K/S A/O
- hasten death by withdrawing treatment
or by taking active steps 55% 77%
- permit patient to forego life-sustaining treatment 66% 66%
- provide active euthanasia 66% 81%
Nurses complying with such requests 5% 3%
Nurses prepared to assist if legal 65% 40%
Nurses in favour of law reform
to allow doctors to provide VE 75% 50%
concluded from descriptive information obtained in their survey that the
Kuhse/Singer questionnaire failed "to capture the complexity of nurses'
attitudes and practices in relation to euthanasia" and that nurses are
less favourably disposed towards voluntary euthanasia than Kuhse/Singer
suggest. Kuhse/Singer pointed out in response that the two surveys are
not comparable since they sampled different populations of nurses, commenting
"even among nurses working in an area with a culture opposed to voluntary
euthanasia, two out of every five nurses would be prepared to assist with
it if it were legal" and "more than four out of every five nurses working
in the area had had at least one request for active euthanasia" (3).
survey of 2000 ACT registered nurses was carried out in 1996 with a return
rate of 61%, 69% of whom supported a change in the law to allow voluntary
euthanasia in some circumstances (4). A similar survey of 1000 NSW Nurses'
association members was carried out in 1997 (5). The return rate was 47.5%
with 80% supporting legalising voluntary euthanasia.
seems reasonable to conclude that a clear majority of nurses are in support
and that their support, although not as strong as that of the general public,
is stronger than that of the medical profession.
Kuhse, H. and Singer, P. 1992. Euthanasia: a survey of nurses attitudes and
practices. Australian Nurses Jnl. 21, 8:21-22.
(2) Aranda, S. and O'Connor, M. 1995. Euthanasia, nurses and care of the dying:
Rethinking Kuhse and Singer. Australian Nursing Jnl. 3,2:18-21.
(3) Kuhse, H. and Singer, P. 1995. No contradiction in euthanasia work. The
Australian 1 August.
(4) Kitchener, B.A. 1998. Nurses' attitudes to active voluntary euthanasia:
a survey in the ACT. Aust. NZ Journal of Public Health 22,2:276-8.
(5) Iliffe, J. 1998 Nurses' attitudes to voluntary euthanasia. Journal of
the NSW Nurses' Association 55,1:37-9.
contact: Hon Secretary, SAVES, PO Box 2151, Kent Town, SA 5071, Australia
- Fax + 61 8 8265 2287