Effects of euthanasia on the bereaved family and friends: A cross sectional study

N. B Swarte, Marije van der Lee, J.G. van der Bom, J. van den Bout, A.P.M. Heintz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Objective
To assess how euthanasia in terminally ill cancer patients affects the grief response of bereaved family and friends.

Design
Cross sectional study.

Setting
Tertiary referral centre for oncology patients in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Participants
189 bereaved family members and close friends of terminally ill cancer patients who died by euthanasia and 316 bereaved family members and close friends of comparable cancer patients who died a natural death between 1992 and 1999.

Main outcome measures Symptoms of traumatic grief assessed by the inventory of traumatic grief, current feelings of grief assessed by the Texas revised inventory of grief, and post-traumatic stress reactions assessed by the impact of event scale.

Results
The bereaved family and friends of cancer patients who died by euthanasia had less traumatic grief symptoms (adjusted difference −5.29 (95% confidence interval −8.44 to −2.15)), less current feeling of grief (adjusted difference 2.93 (0.85 to 5.01)); and less post-traumatic stress reactions (adjusted difference −2.79 (−5.33 to −0.25)) than the family and friends of patients who died of natural causes. These differences were independent of other risk factors.

Conclusions
The bereaved family and friends of cancer patients who died by euthanasia coped better with respect to grief symptoms and post-traumatic stress reactions than the bereaved of comparable cancer patients who died a natural death. These results should not be interpreted as a plea for euthanasia, but as a plea for the same level of care and openness in all patients who are terminally ill.
Original languageEnglish
Article number189
JournalBMJ : British Medical Journal
Volume2003
Issue number327
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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