Factors Influencing Attitudes toward Euthanasia
Over recent decades, euthanasia has been a topic of increasing debate. With legalization of euthanasia in the states of Oregon and Washington and attempted reform in several other U.S. states and nations worldwide, it has become increasingly important to understand the roles and values of helping professionals who might be working with clients considering this option. The current study targeted 85 undergraduate students, 54 doctoral students in counseling psychology, and 53 doctoral-level professionals in psychology to assess both their personal values regarding euthanasia and their willingness to allow a client the autonomy to make a decision about euthanasia. Several factors were analyzed in regards to their relation to client autonomy and attitudes toward euthanasia, including age of client and sex of client. These variables were manipulated in vignettes to create four scenarios: a 24 year old male, 24 year old female, 80 year old male, 80 year old female. Other factors included level of education of the participant, spirituality and strength of religiosity of the participant, and personal experiences with deaths of friends or family members. Results indicated that more education was associated with greater support for euthanasia and that stronger religiosity and spirituality were related to less support for euthanasia. This study also found that participants did not exhibit differential levels of support based solely on the age or the sex of the client depicted in the vignette. Results further indicated that for doctoral students and professionals the loss of a loved one, regardless of cause of death, did not have a significant effect on their attitudes toward euthanasia. It is important for training programs to be aware of these findings in order to monitor trainees in terms of personal biases in the therapy relationship. With objectivity a high priority while working with clients, it is necessary to be aware of outside factors potentially influencing one's work with clients surrounding this value-laden issue.
0497: Medical Ethics
0603: Counseling Psychology