Med students become more opposed to euthanasia while at uni

By March 15, 2021 Recent News

Stuff 15 March 2021
Family First Comment: No surprises in this trend…
Support for euthanasia fell over each year of medical training: 64% in support in second year plummeting to 39% in fifth year.
“Ending a life was “contrary” to what med students were trying to become… Their whole orientation is to try and make things better, and ending a person’s life doesn’t feel that way.”

Medical students become more opposed to euthanasia as they progress through medical school, a new study has found.

Almost 65 per cent of second year medical students at Otago University supported euthanasia or assisted dying, compared with 39 per cent in fifth year, the researchers found.

Support for the practice fell over each year of training: 64.8 per cent in support in second year, 62.6 per cent in third year, 51.5 per cent in fourth year and 39.1 per cent in fifth year.

“We suggest that this difference is most likely due to their time in medical education,” concluded Luke Nie​ and Simon Walker​, along with two other Otago researchers.

First and second year students see few patients and their views mirrored the results of the End of Life Choice referendum held last November – 65 per cent in favour of legalisation, 34 per cent opposed.

By fifth year, however, med students are seeing lots of patients and are “confronted… by the complexities” that can come up in end-of-life situations, he said.

Otago med students are taught palliative medicine and end-of-life care as a “vertical module” throughout most of their education. They also get bioethics courses, although those are mostly identifying issues and enabling students to think for themselves, Walker said. He is a bioethicist and teaches some of these neutral classes.

Professors, doctors and nurses with strong views on euthanasia also probably made impressions on the students, he said.

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