UMS-euthanasia and nursing students

Published: 13 January 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/29pfx75592.1
Dennis Demedts


Objective: Since euthanasia due to unbearable mental suffering (UMS-euthanasia) is legal in Belgium, nursing students will be confronted with this issue during their future internship, or professional career. Graduated nurses believe to have an important role in the process of euthanasia where good communication skills and sufficient legal knowledge are essential. It is therefore important to explore final-year bachelor nursing students’ view on their future role and skills regarding UMS-euthanasia, and to discover possible education needs. Methods: Mixed-methods sequential explanatory design was used. First, a questionnaire was administered to all Flemish final-year bachelor nursing students. Second, qualitative information was collected by organising focus groups with these students to gain more insights into the quantitative results. Results: The final-year nursing students from the survey (n=249) and from the three focus groups (n=21) see a clear future role for themselves in the decision-making process, as well as in supporting the patient and family before, during, and after UMS-euthanasia, but not in assisting in administering UMS-euthanasia. However, they also indicate they lack knowledge and skills in dealing adequately with UMS-euthanasia. Students who have already done psychiatric internships see less of a preparatory role for themselves (p<.05). Ever involved in euthanasia shows a statistically significant difference in the demand for simulation. Conclusions: Nursing students see an important role for nurses in UMS-euthanasia but feel inadequately prepared to take on this role. A combination of theoretical knowledge, clinical experience, open discussions, reflection, and simulation is an opportunity to prepare nurses for their future role.


Steps to reproduce

A total of eleven Belgian Dutch-speaking university colleges offering nursing studies exist in Belgium. All final-year bachelor nursing students at these university colleges were invited by the researchers to participate in this study that took place between October 2020 and March 2021. Eight university colleges were willing to distribute the link to the questionnaire of this study to their 670 final-year students by e-mail. The other three university colleges refused to participate in the study. For two of these universities, no reason was stated; in the third one, the students were already involved in other research studies, and the management declined participation. All participants gave their informed consent before participating in the study. This study ensured total anonymity of the participants by using an anonymous survey link to the online questionnaire in the mail (Qualtrics). Three reminders to participate in this questionnaire were sent to all students (after 1 week, after 2 weeks and after 4 weeks). The students who had already participated were thanked for their participation and could ignore the reminders.


Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Psychiatry, Nursing, Education, Euthanasia, Clinical Competence in Medical Education