Doctors less likely to grant euthanasia in dementia cases

Doctors are less willing to grant euthanasia to people suffering from a psychiatric illness or dementia than to those with cancer or another serious physical disorder, a new study shows.

The study, published on Tuesday in the Journal of Medical Ethics, was based on research with 1,456 doctors in the Netherlands. The Vu Medical Center (VUmc) conducted the study in cooperation with the Academic Medical Center (AMC) and Erasmus MC.

Results shows that 86 percent of doctors find performing euthanasia conceivable. This percentage was the highest among general practitioners (93 percent) and specialists in geriatric medicine (87 percent). It was lower among hospital specialists (74 percent). Many doctors indicated that it would depend on the condition of the patient.

More specifically, 85 percent of respondents would consider euthanasia for cancer patients and 82 percent for patients suffering from another serious physical illness.

The percentage was much lower when it came to patients suffering from a mental illness. Only 34 percent of doctors would consider euthanasia for someone suffering from a psychiatric disorder, 40 percent would consider it for early dementia and 27 percent would consider it for patients who "suffer from life" (when there is no serious condition). Granting a euthanasia request for someone suffering from advanced dementia was conceivable for 29 percent of respondents.