Healthcare professionals’ perceptions about the Italian law on advance directives

Marina Maffoni, Piergiorgio Argentero, Ines Giorgi, Anna Giardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In the variegated legislative framework on advance directives, the first specific regulation in Italy on this issue came into force only in 2018. Research objective: This qualitative study aimed to investigate the implications of the new Italian law on advance directives in clinical practice from the perspective of those who deal with this delicate ethical issue on an everyday basis, that is, Italian healthcare professionals. Research design: A qualitative research design using semi-structured audio-recorded interviews was adopted. The data collection and analysis were performed according to the Grounded Theory approach. Participants: Nineteen healthcare professionals (16 nurses, 3 physicians) working in a palliative care unit of a research and clinical institute in Italy. Ethical considerations: The study is part of the WeDistress HELL Project (WEllness and DISTRESS in HEalth care professionals dealing with end of Life and bioethicaL issues) approved by the Ethical Committee of ICS Maugeri - Institute of Pavia (Italy). Findings: The authors identified a main overall category, ‘Pros and Cons of the Italian law on advance directives’, composed of six constituent categories: Positive welcome, Self-determination and protection, Prompts for future betterment, Uncertainties, Lack of knowledge, and Neutrality and no suggestions. Discussion: The Italian law n. 219/2017 on advance directives was seen as a legal instrument possessing both strengths and weaknesses, but able to guarantee the patient’s self-determination and support healthcare professionals in providing care according to patients’ wishes. Conclusion: An understanding of the healthcare providers’ perspective may support the discussion on advance directives and bridge the gaps that currently persist in handling ethical issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-808
Number of pages13
JournalNursing Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2020


  • Advance directives
  • Grounded Theory
  • healthcare professionals
  • Italy
  • law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


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