Study: Older adults support the right to die, regardless of health

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Study participants wanted the right out of principal, but stressed the need for checks and balances.

There is a phrase that sparks controversy in hospital wards and general assemblies alike — voluntary assisted death. It’s legal in 10 U.S. states, as well as the district of Columbia. Now, a new study claims most older adults support it, but there’s a catch.

Voluntary assisted death, or VAD, is when a patient chooses to end their own life. In the U.S., the practice is often called physician-assisted suicide or physician-assisted death. An Australian study is now diving deeper into the issue.

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Published in the OMEGA Journal of Death and Dying, the study aimed to explore older adults’ perspectives on VAD in Australia, and determined that most of the adults 65 or older voiced support for VAD, but stressed a need for safeguards.

“Participants expressed a desire to have control over end-of-life options, challenged by religious beliefs,” the study said. “Participants expressed concern that VAD legislation could leave people vulnerable to coercion and saw a need for safeguards.”

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The in-depth qualitative study featured interviews with 15 Western Australians aged 65 or older, where VAD is legal for terminally-ill patients, to determine their perspectives on the practice.

“Participants talked about the importance of social connections, the interconnectedness of people, and gaining enjoyment from life,” Dr Eyal Gringart, the study’s supervisor, told newswise.com. “Once those are no longer a part of one’s lived experience, life may not be worth living. If those connections were lost in later life, people said those wanting to access VAD should have the option.”

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