Research was undertaken for an MSc with the aim of gaining an idea of the attitudes of Hospice inpatients towards Assisted Dying (AD) and related subjects, in order to inform the current debate on legalising it in the UK. The study also aimed to identify whether there were associations between these attitudes and symptom and performance scores and whether or not these attitudes changed following inpatient Hospice care. This was a small pilot study using quantitative methods with a face to face questionnaire administered to Hospice inpatients soon after admission and two weeks later.
Small sample size limited statistical analysis, however it appears that a large majority of Hospice inpatients would agree with a change in the law to allow AD and many had considered measures to end their own lives in the past. Under half would have considered AD in the previous week, with lowest rates seen amongst patients nearest to death, suggesting that the ‘worst case scenario’ feared by many who wish to see AD legalised may not come to pass, and many find quality of life in circumstances which might not seem likely to those who are well. Links between attitudes and some symptoms and the possibility of changing views in response to symptom severity are discussed, with the suggestion that many would see AD as a reassuring future possibility rather than an option for their current situation. Participants seemed to welcome the opportunity to discuss this topic.
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