Attitudes toward euthanasia and justifying reasons of elderly Israelis and their family members

Ronit D. Leichtentritt, Kathryn D. Rettig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of the current study was to reach an interpretive understanding of the reasons underlying favorable and unfavorable attitudes of Israeli elderly adults and their family members toward euthanasia. The informants were 47 individuals representing 19 families who were asked for their attitudes toward four case studies that represented withholding and withdrawing treatment, active euthanasia, and physician-assisted death. Results of the grounded theory analysis revealed that most of the participants favored withholding life-sustaining treatment and that almost half of them thought active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were morally acceptable as long as the decision was made by the individual patient himself or herself (voluntary). The reasons that justified their attitude positions were named according to six dimensions: promoting life, promoting death, self-control, delegators, allowing to die, and one-way street. The analysis further examined similar reasons that were provided as justifications for attitudes by two or more family members. These family reason dimensions were labeled according to their similarities to various ethical perspectives, including character ethics, natural laws, liberal individualism, communitarianism, beneficence, and casuistry. The research highlighted the importance of self-control as a core concern of individuals and family members when addressing the moral issues surrounding euthanasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-344
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


FundersFunder number
University of MinnesotaMN 55 108
Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station52-054


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