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euthanasia
(06/03/07) -

Views on Assisted Suicide Shifting in U.S.

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Many adults in the United States believe doctors should legally be able to end a patient’s life by some painless means under certain circumstances, according to a poll by Gallup released by USA Today. 71 per cent of respondents agree with the rationale when a person has a disease that cannot be cured, up two points in a year.

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – Many adults in the United States believe doctors should legally be able to end a patient’s life by some painless means under certain circumstances, according to a poll by Gallup released by USA Today. 71 per cent of respondents agree with the rationale when a person has a disease that cannot be cured, up two points in a year.

Support for euthanasia is markedly lower when the word “suicide” is used to describe the actions. 56 per cent of respondents believe doctors should be allowed by law to assist persons who have a disease that cannot be cured and are living in severe pain to commit suicide, down eight points in a year.

Doctor-assisted suicide became a controversial topic in the U.S. in the 1990s, after Jack Kevorkian—a doctor who claims to have helped more than 100 people end their lives—became a fervent supporter for the right to die. In March 1999, Kevorkian was found guilty of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance for administering lethal drugs to Thomas Youk, who suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

On Jun. 1, Kevorkian was released after serving eight years in prison. The terms of his two-year probation forbid Kevorkian from counselling people on how to end their lives. Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca—who issued the charges against Kevorkian in 1998—declared: “He has served his debt to society. He is unpredictable. But I think the environment for the last eight years has changed his attitude. I don’t think he wants to go back.”

Polling Data

When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life by some painless means if the patient and his family request it?

May 2007

May 2006

May 2005

Yes

71%

69%

75%

No

27%

27%

24%

No opinion

2%

4%

1%

When a person has a disease that cannot be cured and is living in severe pain, do you think doctors should or should not be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it?

May 2007

May 2006

May 2005

Should

56%

64%

58%

Should not

38%

31%

39%

No opinion

6%

5%

3%

Source: Gallup / USA Today
Methodology: Telephone interviews to 500 American adults (First Question) and 503 American adults (Second Question), conducted from May 10 to May 13, 2007. Margin of error is 5 per cent.