A University of Iowa study finds most doctors surveyed favor what’s called “terminal sedation” but not assisted suicide. Terminal sedation is where doctors try to relieve a dying patient’s pain with powerful drugs which might -unintentionally- hasten death. Dr. Lauris Kaldjian, a U-of-I internal medicine professor, says terminal sedation is -not- the same as physician-assisted suicide.Terminal sedation is an effort to treat the symptoms of a disease, not to hasten the death, though it’s recognized the treatment with such powerful drugs could speed death. Dr. Kaldjian says the survey of more than 670 internal medicine physicians found most doctors -are- willing to use intensive treatment to lessen otherwise untreatable pain or other severe symptoms in dying patients, even if the treatment might hasten death. The majority of physicians were in favor of using aggressive medical interventions to control pain and other symptoms at the end of life, and the majority did -not- approve of assisted suicide. Kaldjian says the research also revealed factors related to physicians’ attitudes, based on their experience in caring for terminally ill patients and their frequency of attending religious services. The more experience a doctor had, the more they favored terminal sedation and the more they opposed assisted suicide. Also, the study found the more frequently a doctor attended religious services, the more opposed they were to assisted suicide. 78-percent of respondents supported the use of terminal sedation while about one-third supported physician-assisted suicide, in theory, as “ethically appropriate” in certain circumstances. The practice is legal only in Oregon.
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