This is a review and evaluation of medical and public literature regarding the reported emotional and psychological effects of participation in physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia on the involved physicians.
Articles in medical journals, legislative investigations and the public press were obtained and reviewed to determine what has been reported regarding the effects on physicians who have been personally involved in PAS and euthanasia.
The physician is centrally involved in PAS and euthanasia, and the emotional and psychological effects on the participating physician can be substantial. The shift away from the fundamental values of medicine to heal and promote human wholeness can have significant effects on many participating physicians. Doctors describe being profoundly adversely affected, being shocked by the suddenness of the death, being caught up in the patient's drive for assisted suicide, having a sense of powerlessness, and feeling isolated. There is evidence of pressure on and intimidation of doctors by some patients to assist in suicide. The effect of countertransference in the doctor-patient relationship may influence physician involvement in PAS and euthanasia.
Many doctors who have participated in euthanasia and/or PAS are adversely affected emotionally and psychologically by their experiences.