A challenge for palliative psychology: Freedom of choice at the end of life among the attitudes of physicians and nurses

Ines Testoni, Camilla Bortolotti, Sara Pompele, Lucia Ronconi, Gloria Baracco, Hod Orkibi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers a particular aspect of palliative psychology that is inherent to the needs in the area of attitudes concerning Advance Healthcare Directives (AHDs) among Italian physicians and nurses after the promulgation of Law No. 219/2017 on AHDs and informed consent in 2018. The study utilized a mixed-method approach. The group of participants was composed of 102 healthcare professionals (63 females and 39 males). The quantitative part utilized the following scales: Attitudes toward Euthanasia, the Religious Orientation Scale, the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding, and the Testoni Death Representation Scale. The results were mostly in line with the current literature, especially concerning a positive correlation between religiosity and the participants’ rejection of the idea of euthanasia. However, the qualitative results showed both positive and negative attitudes towards AHDs, with four main thematic areas: “Positive aspects of the new law and of AHDs”, “Negative aspects of the new law and of AHDs”, “Changes that occurred in the professional context and critical incidents”, and “Attitudes towards euthanasia requests.” It emerged that there is not any polarization between Catholics or religious people and secularists: Their positions are substantially similar with respect to all aspects, including with regard to euthanasia. The general result is that the law is not sufficiently understood, and so a quarter of the participants associate AHDs with euthanasia. Discussions on the opportunity for palliative psychologists to help health professionals to better manage these issues through death education courses are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Advance healthcare directives
  • Death education
  • Euthanasia
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Palliative care
  • Palliative psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Development
  • Genetics
  • General Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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