When is hastened death considered suicide? A systematically conducted literature review about palliative care professionals’ experiences where assisted dying is legal

Research paper by Sheri Mila Gerson, Amanda Bingley, Nancy Preston, Anne Grinyer

Indexed on: 09 Oct '20Published on: 31 Aug '19Published in: BMC Palliative Care


Laws allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia have been implemented in many locations around the world but some individuals suffering with terminal illness receiving palliative care services are hastening death or die by suicide without assistance. This systematic review aims to summarise evidence of palliative care professionals’ experiences of patients who died by suicide or hastened death in areas where assisted dying is legal and to understand when hastened death is considered to be a suicide.AMED, CINAHL Complete, PsycINFO, PubMED, and Academic Search Ultimate were searched for articles from inception through June 2018. Quality assessment used the Hawker framework.A total of 1518 titles were screened resulting in thirty studies meeting eligibility criteria for this review. Published studies about professionals’ experiences from areas with legalised assisted dying includes limited information about patients who hasten death outside legal guidelines, die by suicide without assistance, or if the law impacts suicide among palliative care patients.There are a range of experiences and emotions professionals’ experience with patients who die by euthanasia, assisted suicide, or hasten death without assistance. The included literature suggests improved communication among professionals is needed but does not explicitly identify when a hastened death is deemed a suicide in areas where assisted dying is practiced. More research is needed to help clarify what hastened death means in a palliative care context and identify how and if assisted dying impacts issues of suicide in palliative care settings.