+ Site Statistics
+ Search Articles
+ PDF Full Text Service
How our service works
Request PDF Full Text
+ Follow Us
Follow on Facebook
Follow on Twitter
Follow on LinkedIn
+ Subscribe to Site Feeds
Most Shared
PDF Full Text
+ Translate
+ Recently Requested

The attitudes, role & knowledge of mental health nurses towards euthanasia because of unbearable mental suffering in Belgium: A pilot study



The attitudes, role & knowledge of mental health nurses towards euthanasia because of unbearable mental suffering in Belgium: A pilot study



Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 25(7): 400-410



WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT THE SUBJECT?: Euthanasia because of unbearable mental suffering (UMS euthanasia) has been legal in Belgium since 2002 under strict conditions of careful practice. UMS euthanasia occurs fairly rarely in Belgium, but the frequency has increased substantially over the past few years. Although most mental health nurses play an important role and are supportive of euthanasia in general, their role, attitude and knowledge when it comes to UMS euthanasia were unknown until now. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE?: Most mental health nurses in Belgium appear to be supportive towards UMS euthanasia and where UMS euthanasia is carried out, mental health nurses are often involved in the preceding decision-making process. Mental health nurses critically reflect on the interpretation and application of the legal euthanasia criteria as experienced in their daily work with their patients, and identify several problems. After a rather quiet period in Belgium, the public ethical debate regarding UMS euthanasia has recently been reopened and intensified. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE?: Sufficient attention must be paid to how mental health nurses can be involved in the process of UMS euthanasia. This applies at several levels: legal, healthcare policy, bedside care and education. Specific attention must be paid within the UMS euthanasia process to ensure adequate cooperation between physicians, nurses and patients. There is a need for proper training in: knowledge of psychiatric pathologies and remaining treatment options; communication skills; the legal framework and all its difficulties; transdisciplinary and multicultural approaches; ethical reflection and how nurses handle their own emotions. Introduction Euthanasia because of unbearable mental suffering (UMS euthanasia) has been legal in Belgium since 2002, under certain circumstances that govern careful practice. Despite the legal framework, there are specific difficulties and concerns regarding UMS euthanasia. Mental health nurses are often involved in the process, but little is known about their attitudes towards UMS euthanasia, their role and their knowledge. Aim To determine the attitudes, role and knowledge of mental health nurses regarding UMS euthanasia. Methods A cross-sectional survey was performed at a convenience sample of four psychiatric hospitals in Belgium (n = 133) as a pilot study. Self-administered questionnaires were provided to mental health nurses. Results Half the nurses in our sample had been involved at least once in the process of UMS euthanasia. A large majority of mental health nurses were supportive of UMS euthanasia. Nurses show differences in attitudes related to the different psychiatric pathologies of the patients, and in whether or not minors are involved. In some cases, they believed that the mental suffering of psychiatric patients can be unbearable and irreversible and that psychiatric patients can be competent to voluntarily request UMS euthanasia. Nurses stated that they have an important role in the UMS euthanasia process, but also demanded more knowledge and clear guidelines to implement the procedure. Discussion Nurses have a key role regarding UMS euthanasia but face several challenges: the recent process, resistance to a multidisciplinary approach by psychiatrists and an unclear role defined by the legal framework. Nurses do not appear to have a common voice on the topic and the development of clear guidelines appears to be essential. Social recovery can offer a way out of an UMS euthanasia request, but it will not always offer a solution. Implications for Practice Sufficient attention must be paid to how mental health nurses can be involved in the process of UMS euthanasia at various levels: bedside practice, healthcare management, education and policy. A form of systematic cooperation between nurses, physicians and patients can contribute to the utmost careful decision-making process needed in these cases. There is a need for proper training in: knowledge of psychiatric pathologies and remaining treatment options; communication skills; the legal framework and all its difficulties; transdisciplinary and multicultural approaches; ethical reflection and how nurses handle their own emotions.

Please choose payment method:






(PDF emailed within 0-6 h: $19.90)

Accession: 065568756

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 29802774

DOI: 10.1111/jpm.12475


Related references

Attitudes of Psychiatric Nurses about the Request for Euthanasia on the Basis of Unbearable Mental Suffering(UMS). Plos one 10(12): E0144749, 2015

Mental health nurses' attitudes, experience, and knowledge regarding routine physical healthcare: systematic, integrative review of studies involving 7,549 nurses working in mental health settings. Bmc Nursing 18: 16, 2019

Attitudes of nurses towards euthanasia and towards their role in euthanasia: a nationwide study in Flanders, Belgium. International Journal of Nursing Studies 46(9): 1209-1218, 2009

The attitudes, knowledge and skills needed in mental health nurses: the perspective of users of mental health services. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 14(2): 78-87, 2005

Gender Differences and Mental Health: An Exploratory Study of Knowledge and Attitudes to Mental Health Among Scottish Teenagers. Child and Adolescent Mental Health 12(1): 8-12, 2007

Effect of brief training on mental health knowledge and attitudes of nurses and nurses' aides in a general hospital. Nursing Research 24(1): 40-42, 1975

Electroconvulsive therapy: a comparison of knowledge and attitudes of student nurses and staff mental health nurses at a psychiatric hospital in Nigeria. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 17(2): 141-146, 2010

The knowledge and attitudes of mental health nurses to electroconvulsive therapy. British Journal of Nursing 9(15): 999, 2001

Physical health monitoring in mental health settings: a study exploring mental health nurses' views of their role. Journal of Clinical Nursing 26(19-20): 3067-3078, 2017

The knowledge and attitudes of mental health nurses to electro-convulsive therapy. Journal of Advanced Nursing 27(1): 83-90, 1998

Mental health nursing and physical health care: a cross-sectional study of nurses' attitudes, practice, and perceived training needs for the physical health care of people with severe mental illness. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 22(5): 409-417, 2013

Nurses' attitudes towards suicidal behaviour--a comparative study of community mental health nurses and nurses working in an accidents and emergency department. Journal of Advanced Nursing 25(6): 1283-1291, 1997

Mental health nurses' attitudes towards the physical health care of people with severe and enduring mental illness: the development of a measurement tool. International Journal of Nursing Studies 49(1): 72-83, 2012

Attitudes and perceptions of mental health nurses towards borderline personality disorder clients in acute mental health settings: a review of the literature. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 17(7): 657-662, 2010

Knowledge, confidence and attitudes towards mental health of nurses working in NHS Direct and the effects of training. Journal of Advanced Nursing 40(5): 549-559, 2002