New Survey Findings Describe Nurses’ Values and Perspectives on Medical Aid in Dying

Categories: Research.

The American Nurses Association’s Center For Ethics and Human Rights and the University of California, San Diego Health released the results from two new comprehensive studies of more than 2,374 nurses in the United States on Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD). Both qualitative and quantitative responses explore and describe nurses’ values, perceptions, and perspectives on MAiD. Nurse respondents report a need and desire for more guidance on the expectations of their role in MAiD to provide competent and quality care where it is legalized.

Key findings from the quantitative study published in the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing:

  • 86% of nurses would care for a patient contemplating MAiD
  • 67% of nurses would care for a patient in the final act of MAiD
  • 57% of nurses support MAiD in the context of their professional role as a nurse
  • 49% of nurses personally support MAiD
  • 38% of nurses believe a patient should be the only one to self-administer life-ending medications
  • 49% of nurses believe MAiD should be allowed by advance directive
  • Nurses were more likely to support the concept of MAiD if they felt knowledgeable about MAiD
  • Nurses who described themselves as spiritual were more likely to support MAiD than those who described themselves as religious.

Key findings from the qualitative study published in the Nursing Ethics Journal, center around four major values ranging from the nurses’ responses:

  • Honoring Patient Autonomy Without Judgment
  • Honoring with Limitations
  • Not Until…
  • Adamantly Against

MAiD continues to be a serious, yet misunderstood topic among the public, nurses, other health care professionals, and policymakers. Nurses must receive and have access to education regarding their role in MAiD. MAiD is currently legal in 10 states plus Washington D.C. and legislation is currently pending in additional states like Connecticut, Arizona, and Massachusetts. Nurses must be able to confidently respond to a patient’s request for MAiD and care for patients competently within the legally and defined scope of their practice.  Nurses are encouraged to participate in policy discussions as the practice becomes increasingly legal. Careful construction of institutional policy/standards is needed to minimize conflict, moral distress, and psychological harm amongst nurses.

In 2019, the American Nurses Association (ANA) released a position statement, The Nurse’s Role When a Patient Requests Medical Aid in Dying, which aims to address the growing ethical questions and challenges that nurses face when responding to a patient’s request for MAiD. While nurses are still ethically prohibited from administering aid-in-dying medication, ANA advises nurses to remain objective when patients are exploring end-of-life options.

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About the American Nurses Association
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses. ANA advances the profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all.

About UC San Diego Health
As the region’s only academic health system, UC San Diego Health is dedicated to delivering outstanding patient care through commitment to the community, groundbreaking research and inspired teaching. UC San Diego Health includes UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest and Jacobs Medical Center, Moores Cancer Center, Shiley Eye Institute, Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center and Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, all in La Jolla, as well as other primary and specialty practices located throughout Southern California.

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