New Poll Claims Majority of Americans Favor Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 15, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Poll Claims Majority of Americans Favor Legalizing Assisted Suicide

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 15
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — A new poll finds a majority of Americans would support their own state following Oregon’s lead and legalizing assisted suicide. The results, if accurate, should be a concern for pro-life advocates who are working hard to stop Washington and other states from following suit.

Knowledge Networks conducted the survey online and about 66 percent of the 1,100 people polled said they would favor legalizing assisted suicide.

Other results from the survey showed more than 80 percent of Americans believe neither the government, the church nor a third party should decide when people should have a right to die.

Yet the poll also found just 50 percent of Americans over 60 and only 25 percent of younger people have a living will or some other form of advanced directive spelling out their medical treatment decisions.

The survey also found half of Americans think they could become the primary caregiver for an elderly family member or friend.

The result of the survey don’t mesh with other polls showing a much lower level of support for assisted suicide.

A September 2007 Harris Poll found only 39 percent supported "physician assisted suicide" with another 31 percent opposing it and 21 percent not sure of their position.

Backers of assisted suicide were much less strongly supportive of it than those who oppose the practice.

Other those supporting assisted suicide, the Harris Poll found just 38 percent strongly support it while, among those who oppose it, 74 percent are strongly opposed.

The Harris Poll found only 31 percent of Republicans, 40 percent of Democrats, and 45 percent of independent voters support assisted suicide. People between the ages of 31 and 61 were most likely to back assisted suicide while those 18-30 were most likely to oppose it.

Meanwhile, leading euthanasia opponent Alex Schadenberg says the results of polls on assisted suicide depend on the context and wording of the question.

He points out that, while some polls show support for assisted suicide, when voters actually head to the polls in mass, such as they have in Maine and Michigan, they reject measures to make assisted suicide legal.

According to Gallup’s 2007 Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 10-13, the perceived morality of doctor-assisted suicide divides Americans about equally making it of the most controversial social issues for Americans.

Just under half (49%) call it morally acceptable while 44% call it morally wrong and those divisions break down along party and socioeconomic lines. While white, Democrats liberals consider assisted suicide morally acceptable a majority of nonwhites, Republicans, and conservatives call it morally wrong.

And a May 2007 poll from Ipsos Public Affairs found 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.