Nurses’ Perceptions and Attitudes About Euthanasia: A Scoping Review

Joy Cayetano-Penman, Gulzar Malik, Dawn Whittall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Nurses have a critical role in providing holistic care for people with life-limiting conditions. However, they experience internal moral conflict and powerlessness when patients request them to assist in the dying process. A scoping review was undertaken to determine what is known about nurses’ perceptions and attitudes of euthanasia. Review Methods: Several databases were searched that yielded both qualitative and quantitative primary peer-reviewed research studies that focused on nurses, their perceptions and attitudes about euthanasia. Descriptive and explorative analyses of the data set from the research studies were undertaken. Results: A total of 23 studies were included in the review. Opinions about euthanasia were mixed. Two key concepts emerged from the review: some nurses were positive and/or supportive of euthanasia, while some were negative and/or unsupportive of euthanasia. The main factors associated with being positive and/or supportive were because of (a) extreme uncontrollable pain, unbearable suffering, or other distressing experiences of the patient, (b) legality of euthanasia, and (c) right of the patient to die. The factors that determined nurses’ negative and/or unsupportive attitude included (a) religion, (b) moral/ethical dilemmas, (c) role of gender of the health professional, and, (d) poor palliative care. Conclusions: The matter of euthanasia has challenged nurses considerably in their aim to deliver holistic care. There were several crucial factors influencing nurses’ perceptions and attitudes, and these were affected by their personal, professional and transpersonal perspectives. The potential implications to nurses relate to education, practice, and research. Nurses need to be informed of existing legislation and provided in-depth education and professional guidelines to help direct action. Further research is needed to explore the impact on nurses’ emotional well-being, clarify their role/s and determine the support they might require when involved with euthanasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-84
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Holistic Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • attitudes
  • euthanasia
  • experiences
  • health professionals
  • holistic care
  • nurses
  • perceptions
  • physician-assisted suicide
  • scoping review

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