[Medical decisions at the end of life: epidemiological and psychiatric aspects].


OBJECTIVE Despite the ongoing moral and legal debate, there is still a paucity of empirical literature on the actual occurrence of Medical Decisions at the End of Life (MDEL). Moreover, the psychiatrist's role in this scenario is still unclear. METHODS This paper systematically reviews currently available literature on euthanasia (EU) and physician assisted suicide (PAS). Published articles were selected if they reported either: 1) prevalence estimates of patients' requests of EU/PAS; and/or 2) prevalence estimates of physicians' actual EU/PAS practices. Papers exploring the issue of MDEL-related psychiatric consultation have been also included in the review. RESULTS The empirical evidence reported in this paper shows that EU/PAS demands and acts are not uncommon in medical practice. A conservative estimate indicates that at least 10% of physicians have granted a request of EU/PAS. The involvement of consultation-liaison psychiatrists in MDELs seems to be relatively rare. CONCLUSIONS Euthanasia and other MDELs require physicians' thoughtful evaluation of criteria guiding professional decision-making. To this purpose, epidemiological and psychosocial research can offer a valuable contribution.

Cite this paper

@article{Starace1998MedicalDA, title={[Medical decisions at the end of life: epidemiological and psychiatric aspects].}, author={Fernando Starace}, journal={Epidemiologia e psichiatria sociale}, year={1998}, volume={7 2}, pages={135-46} }