Patient education and counseling vol:71 issue:2 pages:293-301
OBJECTIVE: To describe the form and content of ethics policies on euthanasia in Flemish hospitals and the possible influence of religious affiliation on policy content. METHODS: Content analysis of policy documents. RESULTS: Forty-two documents were analyzed. All policies contained procedures; 57% included the position paper on which the hospital's stance on euthanasia was based. All policies described their hospital's stance on euthanasia in competent terminally ill patients (n=42); 10 and 4 policies, respectively, did not describe their stance in incompetent terminally and non-terminally ill patients. Catholic hospitals restrictively applied the euthanasia law with palliative procedures and interdisciplinary deliberations. The policies described several phases of the euthanasia care process--confrontation with euthanasia request (93%), decision-making process (95%), care process in cases of no-euthanasia decision (38%), preparation and performance of euthanasia (79%), and aftercare (81%)--as well as involvement of caregivers, patients, and relatives; ethical issues; support for caregivers; reporting; and practical examples of professional attitudes and communication skills. CONCLUSION: Euthanasia policies go beyond summarizing the euthanasia law by addressing the importance of the euthanasia care process, in which palliative care and interdisciplinary cooperation are important factors. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Euthanasia policies provide tangible guidance for physicians and nurses on handling euthanasia requests.