As assisted suicide failed to pass in state legislatures across the country this year, a new Marist Poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus found that a majority of Americans do not support assisted suicide and that strong majorities harbor deep concerns over such proposals.
More than 6 in 10 Americans (61 percent) do not support a doctor prescribing or administering a lethal drug dose, saying that a doctor should instead only manage an illness or remove life support.
Additionally, 57 percent of Americans say they are less likely to trust a doctor who engages in assisted suicide.
Strong majorities of Americans also have deep concerns about assisted suicide, including:
- 67 percent concerned that fewer life-saving options will be given at end of life.
- 65 percent concerned that the elderly will be at risk in nursing homes.
- 64 percent concerned that the depressed will be more likely to take their lives.
- 59 percent concerned about a wrong diagnosis.
- 55 percent concerned that the doctor could misjudge a patient’s state of mind.
- 55 percent concerned that it will become a cost-saving measure for health care decisions.
- 54 percent concerned that patients will be pressured to take their life so as not to be a burden.
Between 4 in 10 and 6 in 10 of those who support assisted suicide also share each of these concerns.
When asked only if they support allowing a doctor to prescribe a lethal drug dose, a majority still does not say yes. About 4 in 10 (43 percent) support the practice, while 57 percent either oppose it (36 percent) or do not have a position (21 percent).
The poll found that Americans also do not consider assisted suicide a priority. While almost 8 in 10 (78 percent) see the economy as a top priority, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) say the same about affordable health care, only about 2 in 10 (22 percent) consider assisted suicide a top priority – the lowest of the five issues covered in the poll.
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Consistent with that low priority, only 7 percent say they would definitely ask a doctor for assisted suicide while 51 percent said they definitely would not make such a request.
“The American people are deeply concerned about the possible tragic consequences of this sort of legislation, and want doctors to heal and relieve pain rather than to be agents of death,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. “It is not surprising that this legislation has failed so widely since it would sow distrust in the doctor-patient relationship. The most vulnerable – those with an incorrect diagnosis, as well as the mentally ill and depressed, and those with lower quality health insurance – would be particularly at risk.”
Anderson added, “There are many issues that are actually pressing matters for the United States, but the poll makes clear that this is not one of them.”
The survey of 2,079 adults was conducted Jan. 7-13, 2015. Results are statistically significant within ±2.1 percentage points.
Some questions on the issue of end of life decisions were asked of half the sample. Survey respondents were randomly selected to complete one of two survey forms. For this report, questions from survey form B are reported. There are 1,323 national adults. Results are statistically significant within ±2.7 percentage points.
Some questions were fielded February 25 through March 5, 2015 as part of a national omnibus study. There are 1,169 national adults. Results are statistically significant within ±2.9 percentage points.
The Marist Poll was founded in 1978 and has a long and distinguished track record of public opinion surveys, including as the 2012 battleground states election campaign pollster for NBC and The Wall Street Journal.