Attitudes Regarding Assisted Suicide in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis.

TitleAttitudes Regarding Assisted Suicide in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsBowen JD, Sullivan KM, Gianas A, Gibbons LE, Kraft GH
JournalMultiple Sclerosis
IssueSuppl 1

Purpose: To assess attitudes about assisted suicide in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Methods: Surveys were sent to 576 MS patients registered with a county MS association. Findings: Of respondents (N= 405), 79% were female; median age was 50 (range 21-78); 61% lived with a partner, and 69% were educated beyond high school. The median EDSS score was 6 (range 0-9). Imagining a severe worsening of their MS without recovery, 53% would want a medication to end their life, whereas 61 % would consider it &dquo;under some circumstances&dquo;. Most (61%) would like these available to patients, but only 3% would have taken one during the past year. Most (63%) thought they should be available only through a physician. A minority (22%) thought that these medications should not be available. Factors rated very important in forming these opinions included having control (64%), pain (63%), loss of purpose/enjoyment (58%), loss of cognition (56%), dependency (50%), religious beliefs (37%), timing (36%), financial (31%), what others would think (20%), having a long life (20%), and legality (19%). Those supporting assisted suicide were more educated (p=0.003), less disabled (p=0.018), and younger (p=0.03). Conclusions: Most MS patients want medications available to end their life under some circumstances, but only with a physician’s supervision. Only 3% would have taken the medication in the past year. Factors that are most important in forming these opinions are control, pain, loss of purpose/enjoyment, loss of cognition and dependency.

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