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Public interest in medical assistance in dying and palliative care

Abstract

Objectives Medical assistance in dying (MAiD) is legal in an increasing number of countries, but there are concerns that its availability may compromise access to palliative care. We assessed public interest in MAiD, palliative care, both, or neither, and examined characteristics associated with this interest.

Methods We surveyed a representative sample of the adult Canadian public, accessed through a panel from May to June 2019. Weighted generalised multinomial logistic regression analyses were used to determine characteristics associated with interest in referral to palliative care, MAiD, or both, in the event of diagnosis with a serious illness.

Results Of 1362 participants who had heard of palliative care, 611 (44.8% weighted (95% CI 42.1% to 47.5%)) would be interested in both MAiD and palliative care, 322 (23.9% (95% CI 21.5% to 26.2%)) palliative care alone, 171 (12.3% (95% CI 10.5% to 14.1%)) MAiD alone and 258 (19.0% (95% CI 16.9% to 21.2%)) neither. In weighted multinomial logistic regression analyses, interest in both MAiD and palliative care (compared with neither) was associated with better knowledge of the definition of palliative care, older age, female gender, higher education and less religiosity; interest in palliative care alone was associated with better knowledge of the definition of palliative care, older age, female gender and being married/common law; interest in MAiD alone was associated with less religiosity (all p<0.05).

Conclusions There is substantial public interest in potential referral to both MAiD and palliative care. Simultaneous availability of palliative care should be ensured in jurisdictions where MAiD is legal, and education about palliative care should be a public health priority.

  • Supportive care
  • Terminal care
  • Education and training

Data availability statement

Data are available upon request.

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