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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 61 (2019) 1, 32 - 40

Onderzoeksartikel

Experiences and wishes of family members regarding their involvement in dealing with a psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life. A checklist for physicians

E. Ettema, C. Gijsbers van Wijk, S. Hulst, G. Widdershoven

background In the Netherlands, increasing attention is being paid to psychiatric patients with a request for termination of life. One discussion related to this is the role of the family. However, the experiences and wishes of the family regarding their involvement in dealing with a psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life, are not yet well documented.
aim To investigate the experiences and wishes of families regarding their role in dealing with the psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life, and to develop a checklist for physicians to adequately involve the family in the process of dealing with such a request.
method The experiences and wishes of families regarding their role in dealing with a psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life were investigated in a focus group meeting with family members. Based on the results, recommendations were formulated for physicians and their feasibility was tested in a dialogue group of family members and caregivers. Finally, the results were discussed in a focus group of family members to develop a checklist for physicians to involve the family in dealing with a psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life.
results Family members prefer that physicians: 1. involve the family in the process and understand the impact of the situation on family members; 2. discuss expectations and explore the wishes of the family; 3. make use of the knowledge and expertise of the family in order to understand the patient in the context of his/her life; 4. support the family and provide after care, and jointly evaluate the process. The recommendations were consolidated in a checklist for physicians about involving the family in dealing with a psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life.
conclusion It is expected that application of the recommendations and the checklist will promote adequate involvement of the family in dealing with a psychiatric patient’s request for termination of life.

keywords euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, role of the family, psychiatry