June 30, 2016

Gallup’s latest poll on euthanasia and “doctor-assisted suicide”

As tricky–or as deliberately misleading–as polls on abortion can be, those taken on euthanasia can be almost as bewildering and every bit as confounding. Under the headline, “Euthanasia Still Acceptable to Solid Majority in U.S.” here’s the latest from Gallup’s “Values and Beliefs poll” conducted in May.

Here are the “three highlights”:

- 69% say doctors should be allowed to end a patient’s life by painless means
- 51% say they would consider ending their lives if faced with terminal illness
- About half of Americans say doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable

First, the question asked of 1,025 adults is, “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 or her their family request it?” Which, of course, misses the boat on so many grounds (what about patients who are no longer competent? diabetes is incurable) and tilts the answers (“doctors,” “painless”).

The 69% is up from 64% in 2012 but down from 75% in 2010.

Second, what about applying this to themselves? “A hypothetical question–if you personally had a disease that cannot be cured and were living in severe pain, would you consider ending your life by some painless means, or not?”

Given this immensely dreary scenario, 51% would “consider,” 42% would not. But in 2005, 59% would consider ending their life to 38% who would not.

Third, respondents were asked, “Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong. How about doctor-assisted suicide?”

According to Gallup, 53% said this was morally acceptable, 41% said it was morally wrong. Despite over a decade of pro-assisted suicide media coverage, that is down slightly from 56%-37% the last time Gallup asked the question.

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