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Issues in Palliative Care Research$
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Russell K. Portenoy and Eduardo Bruera

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195130652

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195130652.001.0001

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Studying Desire for Death: Methodological Issues in End-of-Life Research

Studying Desire for Death: Methodological Issues in End-of-Life Research

(p.293) 19 Studying Desire for Death: Methodological Issues in End-of-Life Research
Issues in Palliative Care Research

Russell K. Portenoy

Eduardo Bruera

Oxford University Press

With the growing public, political, and medical interest in physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, and other end-of-life issues, the importance of empirical research related to end-of-life care has become increasingly apparent. The need for such research has resulted in a rapidly growing empirical literature addressing many end-of-life issues. This chapter examines a number of the primary methodological issues that accompany such complex areas as physician-assisted suicide and the desire for death. The primary issues covered here involve difficulties selecting and operationalizing dependent variables, sampling issues, and confounding influences on the measurement of relevant variables. Legalization offers unique opportunities for researchers to study individuals who actually seek assisted suicide instead of the hypothetical preferences frequently studied, and this research promises to yield important data to guide future policy debates.

Keywords:   assisted suicide, euthanasia, death, end-of-life care, legalization

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