Physician-assisted death in multiple sclerosis
Survey results show a high hypothetical interest in physician-assisted death in people with MS
Last updated: 28th April 2017
Life with MS can be difficult, especially when the person faces depression, anxiety, disability and pain, all of which have an impact on their quality of life. A recent survey asked more than 7,500 people with MS about their views on physician-assisted death (PAD) (or medical assistance in dying) which resulted in some interesting data that warrants further understanding of the significant life challenges in MS that need to be addressed.
The survey was administered through an active global MS registry called the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS). Respondents were asked to rate, on a 5-grade scale, whether they would consider physician assisted death in five hypothetical situations:
- when experiencing unbearable pain
- when causing a financial burden to caregivers or other family members
- when feeling extreme emotional distress
- unable to do things that make you happy
- unable to enjoy anything that makes your life worth living
The survey found that 7% of responders would consider PAD in all of the hypothetical situations. It also found that 20% of responders would not consider PAD in any of the situations.
The situation in which most of the responders would consider PAD is if they were to experience unbearable pain (65%), and nearly 50% of the surveyed individuals would probably or definitely consider it if they were unable to enjoy anything in life that would make life worth living.
Other things discussed in the survey which contributed to consideration of PAD include financial burden to caregivers, inability to be happy and feelings of extreme emotional distress. In each of the situations except for unbearable pain, over one-third of responders indicated that they would probably or definitely consider PAD.
There were certain factors which influenced the responders’ thoughts around PAD- disability and depression being two of them. Additionally, the importance of social support for people with MS is highlighted in the survey, as higher levels of social support and engagement in religious activities such as attending church, were associated with a lower likelihood of considering PAD.
This survey stresses the importance of providing adequate support for people living with MS, in addition to addressing the high rate of depression and developing ways to adequately diagnose and treat depression early on in people with MS.
The article was adapted from: https://drkarenlee.ca/depression-and-disability-playing-a-role-in-opinions-about-physician-assisted-death/