Dispensing death, desiring death: An exploration of medical roles and patient motivation during the period of legalized euthanasia in Australia

Annette Street, David W. Kissane

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18 Citations (Scopus)


A qualitative case study was conducted to explore the clinical decision making processes that underpinned the practice of euthanasia under the Rights of the Terminally Ill (ROTI) Act. The key informant for this research was Philip Nitschke, the general practitioner responsible for the legal cases of euthanasia. His information was supported by extensive document analysis based on the public texts created by patients in the form of letters and documentaries. Further collaborating sources were those texts generated by the media, rights groups, politicians, the coroner's court, and the literature on euthanasia and assisted suicide. A key study finding was that the ROTI legislation did not adequately provide for the specific medical situation in the Northern Territory, Australia. The medical roles, as proscribed by the legislation, carried many inherent assumptions about the health care context and the availability of appropriately qualified medical staff committed to providing euthanasia. These assumptions translated into difficulties in establishing clinical practices for the provision of euthanasia. A further finding concerned the motivations of those who requested euthanasia. This article addresses the medical roles and the motivations of those seeking euthanasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-248
Number of pages18
JournalOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1999

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