Half of Austrian medical students favour euthanasia

Michael Cook
29 Mar 2011
Reproduced with Permission

The proportion of medical students in Austria who are sympathetic to voluntary euthanasia has more than tripled in the past ten years. According to researchers at the Medical University of Graz acceptance of active euthanasia increased from 16.3% to 29.1% to 49.5% in the periods from 2001 to 2003/04 to 2008/09. In the general population it rose from about 49% to 62% between 2000 and 2009.

Why the steep rise? The researchers believe that students now respect autonomy of the patient and the beneficence of the doctor more than ethical convictions.

"In this respect, the attitudes of the future physicians seem to draw nearer to the approach prevailing in Dutch euthanasia practice of which van Delden et al report: "… that the request of the patient is not the only basis for the physician's decision … Euthanasia, therefore, is always based on both autonomy and beneficence … In such cases of extreme suffering, life might justifiably be terminated without the patient's explicit request."

"In the last few decades there has been a shift in attitude towards more freedom and individual judgement based on a liberal view of the world, while religious convictions are declining. Recent studies have shown that this shift plays a decisive role in the rising acceptance of euthanasia."

Journal of Medical Ethics, April