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Revista Brasileira de Educação Médica
Print version ISSN 0100-5502
PINHEIRO, Anielli et al. Medical students' knowledge about end-of-life decision-making. Rev. bras. educ. med. [online]. 2011, vol.35, n.2, pp.171-176. ISSN 0100-5502. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0100-55022011000200005.
The influence of medical students' knowledge concerning end-of-life care, considering ethical theories and clinical practice, remains controversial. We aimed to investigate medical students' knowledge of bioethical concepts related to moral kinds of death (euthanasia, disthanasia, and orthothanasia) and to analyze the influence of their clinical experience on practicing such approaches in a tertiary hospital in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. We interviewed 180 medical students [distributed in Group 1 (G1) - first to third- year students, and Group 2 (G2) - fourth to sixth-year students] to evaluate the influence of the course on "medical ethics" on ethical theories and clinical practice, using a closed questionnaire. The course on "medical ethics" did not distinguish the groups (P=0.704) in relation to bioethical concepts. Neologisms such as "cacothanasia" and "idiothanasia" were incorrectly viewed as bioethical concepts by 28% of the interviewees. Moreover, 45.3% of the sample considered health care professionals incapable of managing terminally ill patients, especially G2 (29%) as compared to G1 (16.5%, P=0.031). The concept of euthanasia was accepted by 41% of sample, as compared to 98.2% for orthothanasia. Among medical students that accepted ways to abbreviate life (22.9%), 30.1% belonged to G1, and only 16.1% to G2 (P=0.049). These medical students were unfamiliar with common bioethical concepts. Moreover, they considered healthcare professionals incapable of managing terminally ill patients. The ethical ideal of the "good death" reflects better acceptance of orthothanasia by medical students, suggesting a tendency to apply it in their future clinical practice.
Keywords : Bioethics; Medical Ethics; Medical Students; Attitude towards Death; Euthanasia.