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Br J Gen Pract. 2006 October 1; 56(531): 798.
PMCID: PMC1920727

Living wills to provide a legal ‘indication’

Diana Pasterfield1 underlines that there is significant debate regarding euthanasia and living will in Europe. A recent questionnaire conducted in Wales indicates that a majority of GP responders did not favour a change in the law to involve them more in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Considering possible bias in the questionnaire, the authors included different respective views of many issues surrounding the nature and extent of potential procedures.

In Italy, a recent national survey managed by Adnkronos Health2 indicates that GPs ask for legal initiatives in order to fix the terms and rules to help them decide if and when to act. This is also to stop ‘hidden euthanasia’ being carried out in many health facilities.

From this national survey on hospital doctors and GPs, 32% were in favour of euthanasia, 39% were in favour only when the situation is irreversible, but a majority were against an active role, with 39% in favour of living wills. So, we can see that the physicians are open to the problem, but with some apparent reservations, meaning that doctors are against an active role as doctors, but in favour when a clear and realistic wish is expressed in a will by a patient.

In this sense, the debate in Italy is now transferring to the real possibility for people to leave, when they are still fit and well, a living will registered by a lawyer, that considers very serious irreversible cerebral conditions, so that doctors could withdraw healing treatments when the clinical situation persists.


1. Pasterfield D, Wilkingson C, Finlay IG, et al. GPs' views on changing the law on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, and willingness to prescribe or inject lethal drugs: a survey from Wales. Br J Gen Pract. 2006;56:450–452. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Carelli F. Euthanasia: why a discussion is urgent between GPs. M.D. Medicinae Doctors. 2006;9:10–11.

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners