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New study shows the life and death importance of the doctor-patient relationship

An Australian psychiatric study has found that doctors may be inadvertently contributing to the desire of many terminally ill patients to die sooner rather than later.

The report into the Association between clinician factors and a patient's wish to hasten death focused on terminally ill cancer patients and found that the doctor-patient relationship was an important factor in a patient's wish to hasten death.

Psychiatrist, Associate Professor Frank Varghese from The University of Queensland's School of Medicine, conducted the study with researchers from across Australia.

They found that less training in the psychological aspects of medicine and counselling was significantly associated with a high reported wish to hasten death by the patient.

"We found that doctors were more willing to hasten the death of patients if it were legal to do so and if a request by the patient was made," Dr Varghese said.

"This may suggest that in a setting where there is a greater perception of a patient's emotional distress and hopelessness, combined with the doctor's limited psychological training and his or her own difficulty in caring for the patient, the doctor may be more inclined to hasten the death of the patient."

It is currently illegal in Australia and most jurisdictions around the world for a doctor to assist suicide but researcher Professor Brian Kelly from the University of Newcastle said the study raised issues related to legislation assisted suicide.

"The report raises serious concerns about the adverse effect such legislation has on the role of a doctor in the care of a dying patient, the goals of medical treatment and the need to promote better skills in the caring for emotional needs of patients who are dying and their families," Dr Kelly said.

"Doctors face many stresses in the care of dying patients, and their reactions to the patients' distress and the doctor's reactions to severe and incurable i
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Contact: Chris Saxby
61-733-652-479
Research Australia
25-Jun-2006


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