Patient Education and Counseling vol:63 issue:1-2 pages:188-195
OBJECTIVE: To describe whether and how Catholic hospitals and nursing homes in Belgium (Flanders) have developed written ethics policies on euthanasia and communicated these policies to their employees, patients, and patient's relatives. METHODS: A cross-sectional mail survey of general directors of Catholic hospitals and nursing homes in Belgium (Flanders). RESULTS: Of the 298 targeted institutions, 81% of hospitals and 62% of nursing homes returned complete questionnaires. A high percentage of Catholic hospitals (79%) and a moderate percentage of nursing homes (30%) had written ethics policies on euthanasia. Both caregivers and healthcare administrators were involved in the development and approval of these policies. Physicians and nurses were best informed about the policies. More than half of the nursing homes (57%) took the initiative to inform both residents and relatives about the policies, while only one hospital did so. CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of written ethics policies on euthanasia in Flemish Catholic hospitals may reflect the concern of healthcare administrators to maintain the quality of care for patients requesting euthanasia. However, the true contribution of these policies to quality end-of-life care and to supporting caregivers remains unknown and needs further research. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Legislation and centrally developed guidelines might influence healthcare institutions to develop ethics policies.