Medical and ethical experts say 'make general anesthesia mor
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General anesthesia is widely used for surgery and diagnostic interventions, to ensure the patient is completely unconscious during these procedures. However, in a paper published in Anaesthesia ethics and anesthesia experts from the University of Oxford say that general anesthesia should be more widely available for patients at the end of their lives.

Many patients at the end of life require analgesia to relieve pain. The use of sedation in end-of-life care (EOLC) remains controversial. While gradual sedation to alleviate intractable suffering is generally accepted, there is more opposition towards deliberate and rapid sedation to unconsciousness (so-called “terminal anesthesia”, TA). Researchers sought to investigate the general public’s views to inform policy and practice in the UK.

Investigators performed two anonymous online surveys of members of the UK public, sampled to be representative for key demographic characteristics (n = 509). Participants were given a scenario of a hypothetical terminally ill patient with one week of life left. They sought views on the acceptability of providing titrated analgesia, gradual sedation, terminal anesthesia, and euthanasia. Participants were asked about the intentions of doctors, what risks of sedation would be acceptable, and the equivalence of terminal anesthesia and euthanasia.

--Of the 509 total participants, 84% and 72% indicated that it is permissible to offer titrated analgesia and gradual sedation; 75% believed it is ethical to offer TA.

--88 percent of participants indicated that they would like to have the option of TA available in their EOLC (compared with 79% for euthanasia); 64% indicated that they would potentially wish for TA at the end of life (52% for euthanasia).

--Two-thirds indicated that doctors should be allowed to make a dying patient completely unconscious. More than 50% of participants believed that TA and euthanasia were non-equivalent; a third believed they were.

Conclusively, these novel findings demonstrate substantial support from the UK general public for the use of sedation and TA in EOLC.