New Zealand medical students’ views of euthanasia/assisted dying across different year levels

Luke Nie, Kelby Smith-Han, Ella Iosua, Simon Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous studies report a majority of the general public support euthanasia/assisted dying (EAD), while a majority of doctors are opposed. In considering policy decisions about EAD, some may discount the views of doctors because they take them to be based on personal values or tradition, rather than reasons that the general public might share. One way to explore this notion is to examine whether medical students’ views change during their medical education. The objective of this study was to learn how New Zealand medical students view EAD and whether students at different year levels have different views. Methods: An on-line survey of undergraduate medical students was conducted asking whether they supported a law change to allow EAD. Quantitative data was analysed using unadjusted and multiple logistic regression. Thematic analysis was conducted with the qualitative data. Results: A total of 326 students replied to the survey. The overall response rate was 28%. 65% of 2nd year students were supportive of EAD, compared to 39% in 5th year. The odds of 5th year students supporting a law change compared to 2nd year was 0.30 (95% CI: 0.15–0.60). The predominant themes found in the qualitative results indicate that medical students support or oppose EAD for reasons similar to those found in the wider debate, and that their views are influenced by a range of factors. However, several at all year levels cited an aspect of medical school as having influenced their views. This was mentioned by participants who were supportive of, opposed to, or unsure about EAD, but it was the type of influence most often mentioned by those who were opposed. Conclusions: The quantitative findings show students at the end of 5th year were less likely to support EAD than students at the end of 2nd year. We suggest that this difference is most likely due to their time in medical education. This suggests that the lower support found among doctors is in part related to medical education and medical work rather than age, personality, or social context. The qualitative findings indicate that this is not related to a particular educational experience at Otago Medical School but a range.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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