Information about assisted dying: an evaluation of web-based information resources
Aim: This paper is a report of a study of the quality of information that is available on the World Wide Web around the topic of assisted dying by sampling information from a number of web pages about assisted dying with a view to evaluating the nature, content and rigour of the information they contain.
Background: The Internet is seen as one of the first places people will go for information about their health or health-related topics. However, whilst it would appear that, as a source of factual health-related information, the Internet has a degree of reliability and credibility, there is a dearth of information about how the information may contribute to opinion formation and attitudes around important health debates.
Methods: The study used content analysis of web-based material to evaluate the nature, content, currency and rigour of the information they contained against 27 criteria. Each website was independently assessed by two people, and discrepancies were resolved by discussion. In addition the readability and reading age level of each site was evaluated objectively using ‘The Readability Test Tool’ website (Simpson, 2009). The web page data were collected on three separate days in November 2010.
Results/Findings: The majority of sites showed accuracy (76%, n = 43) with 7 (14%) being assessed as highly accurate. This was reflected in the completeness of the site evaluated. All sites were readable with 12 pages (24%) being rated at 3.
Conclusion: There is a discrepancy between web-based information that is aimed at ‘scholars’ and that aimed at the general public. This does have implications for those service users who wish to make health-related decisions based upon reliable information.