Older people support the right to die, regardless of terminal illness, new study finds

Newswise – A first Australian study looks at the controversial question of what older people think about voluntary assisted death (VAD), regardless of their health status.

Participating in the study believed that in principle people should have the right to choose VAD even if they did not have a terminal illness, but stressed checks and balances must be in place. It’s about having the choice to end your life, they said, whether they do it or not. Having the choice alone was empowering.

In an in-depth qualitative study, supervised by University psychology researcher Edith Cowan (ECU) Dr Eyal Gringart15 West Australians aged 65 or over were asked about their views on voluntary assisted dying.

Dr. Gringart is now calling on people to participate in a large-scale quantitative study to learn more about this topic and build on the qualitative research.

As of July 1, 2021, VAD became a choice for terminally ill adults in Western Australia. Laws have also been passed in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

Dr Gringart said previous research had focused on views on assisted dying versus terminal illness. Unique to this study was the outlook on VAD independent of any health condition.

“There were arguments for and against VAD,” Dr. Gringart said.

“Participants expressed a desire for personal choice and said they wanted to control VAD if and when they could no longer be able to care for themselves.

“However, they thought it was important that legislation was drafted to protect vulnerable people from being coerced into seeking VAD by family members or others who do not have the best interests at heart. of the person.”

Dr Gringart said religious beliefs were also part of people’s opinions.

“Some participants saw no need for VAD because of their religious values ​​and beliefs, while others saw merit in VAD despite their religious affiliations,” Dr. Gringart said.

Physical illness was considered a more compelling reason for VAD than mental illness, and overall VAD seemed a more appropriate option later in life.

“There was some ambiguity as to what constitutes a rational reason for wanting to use VAD, people saw the need to consider each case individually,” Dr Gringart said.

Dr Gringart said themes of connection, meaning and enjoyment of life were also explored.

“Participants talked about the importance of social connections, the interdependence of people and the pleasure of living.

“Once it is no longer part of the lived experience, life may not be worth living.

“If those connections were lost later in life, people were saying those who wanted access to VAD should have the option,” Dr. Gringart said.

The next phase of Dr Gringart’s research is a large-scale quantitative study to further explore Australian perspectives on assisted voluntary dying. People over the age of 18 who wish to participate in this study are encouraged to visit the Web page to know more.

Dr. Gringart’s article ‘Older people’s perspectives on assisted voluntary dying: an in-depth qualitative survey in Australia’ is published in the diary of death and dying.

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