Theresa A Harvath, Lois L Miller, Elizabeth Goy, Ann Jackson, Molly Delorit, Linda Ganzini
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 10, Iss. 5, 28 May 2004, pp 236 - 243
As the ethical debate about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) continues, one alternative that has been suggested is for the patient to voluntarily refuse all food and fluids (VRFF). This article describes the results of a study of hospice nurses’ and social workers’ attitudes towards VRFF and compares them with their attitudes towards PAS. In 2001, a questionnaire was posted to nurses and social workers who care for Oregon residents enrolled in hospice programmes to determine their attitudes towards PAS and VRFF. In general, hospice workers expressed support for patients who choose to hasten their death by VRFF; they were less supportive of PAS. The results from this study suggest that perceptions regarding VRFF are significantly different from those regarding PAS. These results may have important clinical implications for nurses and social workers involved in end-of-life care who encounter patients who wish to hasten their deaths.