Doctors’ perspectives on law and life-sustaining treatment: Survey design and recruitment strategies for a challenging cohort

Willmott, Lindy, White, Benjamin P., Cartwright, Colleen, Parker, Malcolm, Williams, Gail M., & Neller, Penny (2016) Doctors’ perspectives on law and life-sustaining treatment: Survey design and recruitment strategies for a challenging cohort. Progress in Palliative Care: Science and the Art of Caring, 24(4), pp. 213-220.

[img] Accepted Version (PDF 119kB)
Administrators only until August 2017 | Request a copy from author

View at publisher



  • Palliative medicine and other specialists play significant legal roles in decisions to withhold and withdraw life-sustaining treatment at the end of life. Yet little is known about their knowledge of or attitudes to the law, and the role they think it should play in medical practice. Consideration of doctors’ views is critical to optimizing patient outcomes at the end of life. However, doctors are difficult to engage as participants in empirical research, presenting challenges for researchers seeking to understand doctors’ experiences and perspectives.


  • To determine how to engage doctors involved in end-of-life care in empirical research about knowledge of the law and the role it plays in medical practice at the end of life.


  • Postal survey of all specialists in palliative medicine, emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, intensive care, medical oncology, renal medicine, and respiratory medicine in three Australian states: New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. The survey was sent in hard copy with two reminders and a follow up reminder letter was also sent to the directors of hospital emergency departments. Awareness was further promoted through engagement with the relevant medical colleges and publications in professional journals; various incentives to respond were also used. The key measure is the response rate of doctors to the survey.


  • Thirty-two percent of doctors in the main study completed their survey with response rate by specialty ranging from 52% (palliative care) to 24% (medical oncology). This overall response rate was twice that of the reweighted pilot study (16%).


  • Doctors remain a difficult cohort to engage in survey research but strategic recruitment efforts can be effective in increasing response rate. Collaboration with doctors and their professional bodies in both the development of the survey instrument and recruitment of participants is essential.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
3 citations in Web of Science®
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 93231
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Health law, Medical law, Adult guardianship law, Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, Palliative care, Knowledge of law, Compliance with law, Survey of doctors, End of life decision-making, Research methods
DOI: 10.1080/09699260.2015.1133031
ISSN: 0969-9260
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Sociological Methodology and Research Methods (160807)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law and Society (180119)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100) > Medical Ethics (220106)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Taylor & Francis
Deposited On: 24 Feb 2016 21:50
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2017 06:02

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page