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Nurses and assisted suicide

Would you ever administer life-ending drugs to a patient? While assisted suicide is legal in a number of US states (notably, Oregon, Washington and Montana), current state laws insist that any life-ending medication must be self-administered by the patient. In Europe, however, some nurses administer medication intended to end patients’ lives under physicians’ orders.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium (and Holland), but by law should be performed by physicians under strict requirements, which include discussing the request with any involved nurses. However, a recent survey of 1265 nurses found 120 nurses with knowledge of patients who received life-ending drugs without an explicit request from the patient. Nurses helped prepare the drugs in 48% of those cases and administered the drugs in 45% of the cases.

The American Nurses Association believes that nurses should not participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia, but what’s your take? Under what conditions would you administer a lethal injection to a terminally ill patient?



Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.

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