The impact on patient trust of legalising physician aid in dying

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; African Continental Ancestry Group; Age Factors; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Educational Status; Euthanasia; Female; Health Status; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Patient Satisfaction; Physician-Patient Relations; Trust


Health Services Research | Primary Care


OBJECTIVE: Little empirical evidence exists to support either side of the ongoing debate over whether legalising physician aid in dying would undermine patient trust.

DESIGN: A random national sample of 1117 US adults were asked about their level of agreement with a statement that they would trust their doctor less if "euthanasia were legal [and] doctors were allowed to help patients die".

RESULTS: There was disagreement by 58% of the participants, and agreement by only 20% that legalising euthanasia would cause them to trust their personal physician less. The remainder were neutral. These attitudes were the same in men and women, but older people and black people had more agreement that euthanasia would lower trust. However, overall, only 27% of elderly people (age 65+) and 32% of black people thought that physician aid in dying would lower trust. These views differed with physical and mental health, and also with education and income, with those having more of these attributes tending to view physician aid in dying somewhat more favourably. Again, however, overall views in most of these subgroups were positive. Views about the effect of physician aid in dying on trust were significantly correlated with participants' underlying trust in their physicians and their satisfaction with care. In a multivariate regression model, trust, satisfaction, age, and white/black race remained independently significant.

CONCLUSION: Despite the widespread concern that legalising physician aid in dying would seriously threaten or undermine trust in physicians, the weight of the evidence in the USA is to the contrary, although views vary significantly.

DOI of Published Version



J Med Ethics. 2005 Dec;31(12):693-7. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of medical ethics

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID