INTRODUCTION: A lack of social consensus on the duty to comply with a patient's request to forgo treatment was reported in Italy, but little is known about the nurses' attitudes regarding this issue. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Questionnaire including two clinical scenarios regarding doctor's decision to not comply with a competent patient's request to forgo treatment was administered to all nurses (n = 487) of an Italian medium-sized hospital. RESULTS: Eighty-five percent of nurses completed the study. Although 83% of participants supported a general right to self-determination, around 40% of them agreed with the doctor's decision in both scenarios. The multivariate analyses adjusted for gender, age, length of professional experience, and care setting showed that the agreement with the doctor's decision was significantly associated with nurses' personal background beliefs about self-determination and quality of life. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Many nurses have difficulty in accepting a patient's request to forgo treatment. Increasing ethical reflection and discussion at both educational and professional level, and introducing ethical consultation services would be essential to develop a consistent approach to end-of-life decisions in Italian hospitals.