TORONTO, Sept 1 ( – A ground-breaking study to be released in the September 4 edition of The Lancet medical journal has found that terminal cancer patients have second thoughts once they have expressed a desire to die. The study was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, The Open Society Institute, and Project Death in America. The research, by Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, Division of Palliative Care,  University of Manitoba, found that “the will to live in terminal patients can fluctuate wildly over periods as short as 12 hours in response to physical or psychological distress.”

Dr. Chochinov noted that this is the “first time anyone has tried to carefully [and quantitatively] measure the will to live amongst patients nearing the end of their lives.”  Dr. Barbara Whylie, Director, Medical Affairs/Cancer Control, Canadian Cancer Society commented that “The results of this research project provide important answers that will help shed some light on the many questions surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

Dr. Chochinov and his team tested the will to live of 168 patients with terminal cancer at the Riverview Palliative Care Unit in Winnipeg. Patients ranged in age from 31 to 89 years old, and were assessed for mental acuity before being admitted to the study. Once enrolled,  they were surveyed twice a day, for an average of 27 days.