Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 423–431 | Cite as

The operationalisation of religion and world view in surveys of nurses’ attitudes toward euthanasia and assisted suicide

  • Joris Gielen
  • Stef Van den Branden
  • Bert Broeckaert
Scientific Contribution


Most quantitative studies that survey nurses’ attitudes toward euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, also attempt to assess the influence of religion on these attitudes. We wanted to evaluate the operationalisation of religion and world view in these surveys. In the Pubmed database we searched for relevant articles published before August 2008 using combinations of search terms. Twenty-eight relevant articles were found. In five surveys nurses were directly asked whether religious beliefs, religious practices and/or ideological convictions influenced their attitudes, or the respondents were requested to mention the decisional basis for their answers on questions concerning end-of-life issues. In other surveys the influence of religion and world view was assessed indirectly through a comparison of the attitudes of different types of believers and/or non-believers toward euthanasia or assisted suicide. In these surveys we find subjective religious or ideological questions (questions inquiring about the perceived importance of religion or world view in life, influence of religion or world view on life in general, or how religious the respondents consider themselves) and objective questions (questions inquiring about religious practice, acceptance of religious dogmas, and religious or ideological affiliation). Religious or ideological affiliation is the most frequently used operationalisation of religion and world view. In 16 surveys only one religious or ideological question was asked. In most articles the operationalisation of religion and world view is very limited and does not reflect the diversity and complexity of religion and world view in contemporary society. Future research should pay more attention to the different dimensions of religion and world view, the religious plurality of Western society and the particularities of religion in non-Western contexts.


Assisted suicide Euthanasia Nurses Operationalisation of religion Religion World view 



This review was performed as part of the research project ‘Religion and Ethics at the End of Life. A Study of the Influence of Religious and Ideological Affiliation and Worldview on Attitudes towards End-of-life Decisions’, sponsored by the Research Foundation—Flanders.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joris Gielen
    • 1
  • Stef Van den Branden
    • 1
  • Bert Broeckaert
    • 1
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Religion and World ViewCatholic University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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