Euthanasia and the elderly

Maureen V Himchak, Fordham University


By using a cross-sectional survey, this research study examines the ethical dilemma of euthanasia among a non-probability sample of 329 community-based, culturally and religious affiliated diversified elderly, from two types of environments: 216 elderly from fifteen different community sites and 113 elderly who are home-bound elderly. The principles of autonomy, beneficience, and nonmaleficence are explored as they relate to the dilemma of euthanasia and to the conflicting experiences among the elderly, family members, health care professionals, and society. The research in this study presents the trends of these ethical principles as they are encompassed in the ethical dilemma of euthanasia from the collection of data through historical developments, empirical studies, and population polls. The theoretical framework of the research is based upon Beuchamp and Childress's conceptualization of the principles: autonomy, beneficience, and nonmaleficence of bioethics. Within this framework, this study defines the concepts of euthanasia, develops the hypotheses, and explains the contributing factors which influence the attitude towards euthanasia among the community-based elderly. The contributing factors of life satisfaction, health, education, religiosity, and living arrangements are statistically measured at the p = $<$.05 level of significance by utilizing a variety of Analysis of Variance (ANOVAS), as well as correlation and regression analysis. Findings in the covariate analysis indicate the major contributing factors, life satisfaction, and religiosity as having a strong impact upon the attitude towards euthanasia among the elderly, whereas the correlation and regression analysis indicate religiosity, alone, as the major contributing factor. The results of the multiple regression analysis indicate that 11% of the variance is explained among all the variables and 6% of this variance is explained by the variable, total religiosity, as having the most effect on attitudes towards euthanasia among the elderly. Implications provide insight about intervention in education, policy-making, community action, and research for social workers and health care professionals. These implications will enable these professionals to target the specific long-term needs which will enhance the quality of life for the elderly as they continue to "age in place."

Subject Area

Social work|Gerontology|Religion|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Himchak, Maureen V, "Euthanasia and the elderly" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9532082.