Poll: Americans Divided on Assisted Suicide as Jack Kevorkian Released

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 29, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Poll: Americans Divided on Assisted Suicide as Jack Kevorkian Released Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 29
, 2007

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — As assisted suicide crusader Jack Kevorkian is set to be released later this week, a new poll conducted by the Associated Press finds Americans appear divided on the issue of assisted suicide. The poll also found a majority of people didn’t think Kevorkian should have been jailed, though it asked an inaccurate question.

Conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, a polling firm that does surveys for AP, the poll found that people were more encouraging of death for others than for themselves.

Some 68 percent of those polled indicated that there are circumstances in which doctors should let patients die while just 30 percent said physicians should do everything possible to save the life of a patient.

But 55 percent indicated they would not consider ending their own lives if faced with a serious illness or terminal disease.

On the question of assisted suicide itself, Americans are divided with 48 percent saying it should be legal for "doctors to help terminally ill patients end their own life by giving them a prescription for fatal drugs."

Another 44 percent disagreed and 8 percent were unsure or refused to answer the question.

The poll included interviews with 1,000 adults, of whom 840 were registered voters. The four percent split on assisted suicide is just outside the 3.1 percent margin of error for the adults and the 3.4 percent margin of error for the registered voters.

Ipsos also asked respondents: "Do you think that Michigan doctor Jack Kevorkian should have been jailed for assisting terminally ill people end their own life, or not?"

Some 53 percent said no while 40 percent agreed — but the question gave those polled erroneous information about why Kevorkian was jailed.

Kevorkian claims to have killed 130 people via assisted suicide but he was never prosecuted for those deaths. Instead, Kevorkian was sent to prison in 1999 after showing a videotape on CBS News of him euthanizing Thomas Youk, who was in the latter stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Unlike in the assisted suicide deaths, Kevorkian actively takes the life of Youk rather than setting up his assisted suicide machine for patients to use to commit suicide.

An AP story by national writer David Crary, did not mention the bias associated with the question in his news story on the poll and tied the Kevorkian question specifically to the debate about assisted suicide — never mentioning Youk’s death and the difference it highlights.

Back to assisted suicide, the Ipsos poll found that a person’s religious views has great bearing on their opinion about the grisly practice.

Only 34 percent of churchgoing respondents — those who go to services once a week or more — back assisted suicide while 70 percent who never attend religious services are supportive.

Comparatively, only 23 percent of churchgoers would consider ending their own lives while 49 percent of those who don’t attend religious services would do so.

Attitudes on assisted suicide and its legalization also varied based on political party with 57 percent of Democrats saying it should be legal while just 39 percent of Republicans agreed. Along the same lines, 56 percent of GOP voters say Kevorkian should have been jailed while only 31 percent of Democrats concur.

Support for assisted suicide was lowest in the South and Midwest and the highest in the Northeast and West — following the same lines as views on abortion.

The Ipsos poll was conducted from May 22-24.