Date of Award

Spring 5-2013

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Janie Butts

Advisor Department




The purpose of this study is to discover unique themes related to the attitudes of nurses in Southern Mississippi toward physician-assisted death (PAD).


This study is a qualitative, inductive content analysis. The sample comprised three registered nurses currently practicing in Southern Mississippi. The researcher guided each participant’s one-hour interview with questions, then recorded and transcribed the texts for data analysis; and coded and analyzed data. Themes were selected if there was inter-rater agreement of 100% between the researcher and thesis adviser.


The interview questions focused on (a) the presence or absence of support for legalization of PAD, (b) acceptability of, or preference for PAD, and (c) what recurring factors, if any, influence the participants’ attitudes toward PAD. Extrapolated themes were (a) patient autonomy, (b) religion and Christianity, (c) ethical gray area, (d) education, (e) nursing the dying, and (f) external influences.


Each participant agreed that PAD was a complex ethical dilemma, rather than a black or white issue. Findings suggested that support for PAD is present among nurses in Mississippi, but a lack of support is likely to be more prominent. Religious faith and professional experience were cited as external influences on attitudes toward PAD, and religious faith was a direct determinant of opposition towards PAD. A knowledge deficit regarding PAD was apparent for all participants. More research with a larger sample size is necessary for definitive and representative conclusions.