Assisted Suicide in Austria: Attitudes, Experiences, and Support Needs of Palliative Care Nurses


  • Arzu Petersen University of Vienna



Physician-assisted suicide is the medical procedure in which patients who are deemed mentally fit and eligible are able to make the choice to medically end their own life [1]. This occurs within the context of palliative care medicine, an interdisciplinary field of medicine dedicated to mitigating suffering through comfort-based care of patients with long-term, chronic, or serious illnesses. In some places such as Oregon, USA, Switzerland, and Belgium, physician assisted suicide has been legalized [1]. In January 2022, this procedure has been legalized in Austria as well for patients with a severely debilitating long-term condition or a terminal illness [2]. Since its legalization, there has not yet been a review of the experiences, beliefs, or needs of medical care staff encountering this procedure in their workplace.

Research Question & Methods 

The present study investigates the overarching research question: “What is the current status of the implementation of assisted suicide in Austrian palliative care medicine?” with various sub-questions directed at the legalization of assisted suicide.

The method of this cross-sectional, explorative study includes an online survey distributed to hospice care nurses in palliative care centers around the country. This will contain three sections, with questions aiming to assess the general personal opinions regarding assisted suicide in medicine, the details of their most recent encounter with a patient wishing to utilize this process, and finally, what personal and professional support may still be needed. After the surveys have been returned, a comprehensive assessment and analysis of such data will be performed and ideally used to refine the current system as needed.

Expected Results & Importance

Given the results from other countries’ comparable studies, we expect that attitudes will not have drastically changed regardless of experience [1].

This work is necessary as it helps society understand and acknowledge the perceptions, beliefs, and potentially high toll taken on these direct care workers who are confronted with the implementation of assisted suicide as a legal practice. Such a study at this early stage of implementation is important in Austria to understand both how the nation’s implementation of the new law is progressing, and to assess attitudes and needs of care staff.


[1] E. Inghelbrecht, “Attitudes of nurses towards euthanasia and towards their role in euthanasia: a nationwide study in Flanders, Belgium. International journal of nursing studies,” 1209-1218, 46(9), 2009.

[2] A. Brade and R. Friedrich, “Stirb ab einem anderen Tag,” Verfassungsblog, 2021.