Vermont Poll Showing Majority Back Assisted Suicide Found Faulty

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vermont Poll Showing Majority Back Assisted Suicide Found Faulty Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 7, 2005

Montpelier, VT ( — A recent poll conducted by the Zogby Ininternational polling firm claims a strong majority of Vermont residents support assisted suicide. One problem: the poll never used the phrase assisted suicide when questioning respondants.

Nearly 80 percent of the 500 Vermont residents poll say they favored assisted suicide, but were only told about the process used.

Pollsters found that 78 percent supported a bill to "allow a mentally competent adult, dying of a terminal disease, the choice to request and receive medication from a physician to peacefully end suffering and hasten death."

Death with Dignity Vermont and End of Life Choices, two groups backing legislation to make Vermont the second state to legalize the practice, sponsored the poll.

Marilyn Bunker of Chelsea, a member of End of Life Choices, told the Associated Press that the results mirrored what she has heard from people she’s dealt with on the issue.

Bunker objected to the term "assisted suicide" and said that a doctor helping a person kill himself should instead be labeled "death with dignity."

But Dr. Robert Orr, head of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, a group of doctors disability groups and religious leaders who oppose euthanasia, says the terms used matter.

"Several research articles have shown that how a question is worded makes a major difference in results," he told AP.

Dr. Orr indicated that a half dozen previous polls show fewer than half of Vermont residents bacl assisted suicide when more accurate wording was used about the practice.

According to the poll, all groups backed assisted suicide except those who said they were "very conservative" or attended church once a week or more.