A profile of the belief system and attitudes to end-of-life decisions of senior clinicians working in a National Health Service Hospital in the United Kingdom

Edwin J. Pugh, Robert Song, Vicki Whittaker, John Blenkinsopp

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    Abstract

    There is evidence from outside the United Kingdom to show that physicians' religious beliefs influence their decision making at the end of life. This UK study explores the belief system of consultants, nurse key workers and specialist registrars and their attitudes to decisions which commonly must be taken when caring for individuals who are dying. All consultants (N = 119), nurse key workers (N = 36) and specialist registrars (N = 44) working in an acute hospital in the north-east of England were asked to complete a postal questionnaire. In all, 65% of consultants, 67% of nurse key workers and 41% of specialist registrars responded. Results showed that consultants' religion and belief systems differed from those of nurses and the population they served. Consultants and nurses had statistically significant differences in their attitudes to common end of life decisions with consultants more likely to continue hydration and not withdraw treatment. Nurses were more sympathetic to the idea of physician-assisted suicide for unbearable suffering. This study shows the variability in belief system and attitudes to end of life decision making both within and between clinical groups. This may have practical implications for the clinical care given and the place of care. The personal belief system of consultants was not shown to affect their overall attitudes to withdrawing life-sustaining treatment or physician-assisted suicide.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)158 - 164
    JournalPalliative Medicine
    Volume23
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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