Quality of death and dying in patients who request physician-assisted death

Kathryn A. Smith, Elizabeth R. Goy, Theresa A. Harvath, Linda Ganzini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Physician-assisted death (PAD) was legalized in 1997 by Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (ODDA). Through 2009, 460 Oregonians have died by lethal prescription under the ODDA. Objective: To determine whether there was a difference in the quality of the dying experience, from the perspective of family members, between 52 Oregonians who received lethal prescriptions, 34 who requested but did not receive lethal prescriptions, and 63 who did not pursue PAD. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Measurements: Family members retrospectively rated the dying experience of their loved one with the 33 item Quality of Death and Dying Questionnaire (QODD). Results: There were differences reported in 9 of the 33 quality item indicators. Few significant differences were noted in items that measured domains of connectedness, transcendence, and overall quality of death. Those receiving PAD prescriptions had higher quality ratings on items measuring symptom control (e.g., control over surroundings and control of bowels/bladder) and higher ratings on items related to preparedness for death (saying goodbye to loved ones, and possession of a means to end life if desired) than those who did not pursue PAD or, in some cases, those who requested but did not receive a lethal prescription. Conclusions: The quality of death experienced by those who received lethal prescriptions is no worse than those not pursuing PAD, and in some areas it is rated by family members as better.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-450
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


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