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Open Access Research article

Factors associated with the rejection of active euthanasia: a survey among the general public in Austria

Willibald J Stronegger*, Nathalie T Burkert, Franziska Grossschädl and Wolfgang Freidl

Author Affiliations

Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Medical University of Graz, Universitätsstrasse 6/I, 8010, Graz, Austria

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BMC Medical Ethics 2013, 14:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-26

Published: 4 July 2013



In recent decades, the general public has become increasingly receptive toward a legislation that allows active voluntary euthanasia (AVE). The purpose of this study was to survey the current attitude towards AVE within the Austrian population and to identify explanatory factors in the areas of socio-demographics, personal experiences with care, and ideological orientation. A further objective was to examine differences depending on the type of problem formulation (abstract vs. situational) for the purpose of measuring attitude.


A representative cross-sectional study was conducted across the Austrian population. Data were acquired from 1,000 individuals aged 16 years and over based on telephone interviews (CATI). For the purpose of measuring attitude toward AVE, two different problem formulations (abstract vs. situational) were juxtaposed.


The abstract question about active voluntary euthanasia was answered negatively by 28.8%, while 71.2% opted in favour of AVE or were undecided. Regression analyses showed rejection of AVE was positively correlated with number of adults and children in the household, experience with care of seriously ill persons, a conservative worldview, and level of education. Mean or high family income was associated with lower levels of rejection. No independent correlations were found for variables such as sex, age, political orientation, self-rated health, and experiences with care of terminally ill patients. Correlation for the situational problem formulation was weaker and included fewer predictors than for the abstract question.


Our results suggest that factors relating to an individual’s interpersonal living situation and his/her cognitive convictions might be important determinants of the attitude toward AVE. If and to the extent that personal care experience plays a role, it is rather associated with rejection than with acceptance of AVE.

Euthanasia; Attitude; End-of-life care; Public opinion; Austria