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Medical assistance in dying: research directions
  1. Sigrid Dierickx and
  2. Joachim Cohen
  1. End-of-Life Care Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel Faculteit Geneeskunde en Farmacie, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Professor Joachim Cohen, End-of-Life Care Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel Faculteit Geneeskunde en Farmacie, Brussel 1090, Belgium; jcohen{at}vub.be

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Euthanasia and assisted suicide, both sometimes referred to as medical assistance in dying (MAiD), have in recent years become increasingly important concerns for public health and for end-of-life care. In a context of increased life expectancy, protracting illness trajectories before death and changing discourses around patient autonomy, dignity and ‘good death’, an increasing number of jurisdictions have legalised forms of MAiD, that is, acts in which the death of a seriously ill and suffering person is hastened by means of a lethal dose of drugs at this person’s request.1 Up until a decade ago, the number of jurisdictions that legally accepted some form of MAiD was limited to a handful of relatively small European countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland) and one state in the USA (Oregon). In the last decade (ie, between 2009 and 2018), this was substantially expanded with three countries (Luxembourg, Colombia and Canada) and eight states (Washington, Vermont, Montana, California, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington DC in the USA and the Australian state of Victoria). This means that over 180 million people now live in a place where they can legally access MAiD.

This increased public health relevance of MAiD also intensifies its importance within end-of-life care research. Up until now, research has particularly been limited to the early-adaption countries and states2 and, even there, a number of concerns regarding MAiD practice have not yet been studied adequately. At the same time, MAiD remains subject of fierce debate. From our impression of the current state of research regarding MAiD practices, a number of shortcomings and needs in research can be identified. Of these research gaps, we suggest at least the following five as most directly addressable …

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