Cavalieri T, Pomerantz S, Ciesielski J, Shinkle J, Forman L. Attitudes of osteopathic physicians toward physician-assisted suicide. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2002;102(1):27–34. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2002.102.1.27.
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The use of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in the care of terminally ill patients is controversial. While there are published surveys assessing the attitudes and views of physicians in certain specialties, both nationally and in targeted geographic areas, no such data are available specifically pertaining to osteopathic physicians, who deliver 9% of the primary care in the United States. This article describes a study whose purpose was to identify the views and perspectives of osteopathic physicians on PAS through a national survey. Questionnaires were forwarded to all board-certified internists who are members of the American College of Osteopathic Internists and all surgeons and a random sample of family physicians who are members of the American Osteopathic Association. Physicians were surveyed with initial and follow-up mailings. The 49-item questionnaire was a modified version of the Physician Survey, Center for Ethics in Health Care: Oregon Health Sciences University. Of the 2910 questionnaires that were mailed, 1028 were returned in a usable form, for a 35% response rate. Respondents were predominantly (81%) male and from all parts of the country. Most (58%) would not be willing to prescribe a medication for a competent, terminally ill patient to use with the primary intention of ending his or her own life, and most (55%) would oppose the legalization of PAS. Thirty-three percent of osteopathic physicians admit to receiving requests by terminally ill patients for PAS. Most (53%) osteopathic physicians indicate that the osteopathic principle of holistic care has influenced their decision-making on this issue, and a significant minority (44%) responded that the osteopathic oath influenced their view on PAS. Religion and the degree of prayer frequency were important predictors of the decisions to support or oppose PAS. When compared to other physician surveys, this survey of osteopathic physicians demonstrates some similarities in response but also significant differences. These data suggest that osteopathic education and training may result in a perspective on PAS that reflects the distinctiveness of the osteopathic profession.
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