Oregon emergency medical technicians' attitudes toward physician- assisted suicide

Terri A. Schmidt, Andrew D. Zechnich, Melissa Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine Oregon intermediate and advanced emergency medical technicians' (EMTs') attitudes toward physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and factors associated with those attitudes. Methods: An anonymous survey was sent to a random sample of 498 EMTs registered in Oregon. Results: Surveys were delivered to 498 EMTs and 343 completed surveys were returned, for a response rate of 69%. The mean age of the respondents was 37.5 years (±8.73) and 79% were male. 232 (68%) agreed that PAS should be legal, 263 (77%) agreed that terminally ill people have a right to decide to commit suicide, while 57 (17%) thought not attempting resuscitation would be immoral. 251 (73%) reported seeing attempted suicide in terminally ill patients at least once, with 117 (34%) experiencing such calls >5 times. Only 22 (6%) stated that they would be unable to work in a system that directed them to withhold resuscitation after a PAS attempt, and 277 (81%) agreed that treatment protocols should direct EMTs to withhold resuscitation. 105 (31%) thought EMTs should participate in the decision to withhold resuscitation. 206 (60%) thought the law should allow lethal injection for terminally ill patients. 201 (59%) agreed there were circumstances under which they might personally consider PAS. If PAS were legal, EMTs stated they would withhold treatment from a terminally ill patient following attempted suicide in the following circumstances: based on standing orders, 78%; with on-line medical direction, 67%; after speaking with the primary physician, 53%; if the patient had decision-making capacity, 45%; with written documentation from the patient's physician, 68%; and never, 6%. Conclusions: A majority of Oregon EMTs responding to this survey expressed support for PAS, think treatment protocols should direct paramedics to withhold resuscitation in such cases, and would feel comfortable withholding resuscitation given appropriate protocols. Nearly 3 out of 4 Oregon EMTs report seeing at least 1 terminally ill patient who had attempted suicide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)912-918
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • EMS
  • Emergency medical systems
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Medical ethics
  • Oregon
  • Physician-assisted suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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