One of the arguments used by those who oppose physician-assisted suicide is that legalizing the procedure would result in terminally ill patients rushing to end their lives. Common sense tells us this isn’t likely: very few people willingly run to their deathbeds. Of course, common sense isn’t always correct or reliable. That’s why we have science.
Yet, in this case, it appears science has confirmed what many people already think is true: a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology for Clinical Settings, found that “a liberal legal setting does not necessarily promote the wish for assisted suicide.”
The results of a series of interviews with the 33 patients … suffering from the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) … revealed that 94 percent did not have any desire for assisted suicide, but 57 percent could imagine a time when doctors administer the drug (currently, Swiss law insists that the lethal dose be self-administered). In addition, 54 percent said they could imagine a time when they would ask their doctor for a lethal drug prescription, to be taken at a later date of their choosing. The findings reveal that patients have a strong desire to take their own healthcare, treatment and fate in their own hands — which is essentially why assisted suicide exists in the first place, to allow those who feel they are losing control of their minds or bodies to regain power and see their own will take shape again.
In fact, according to the president of an assisted suicide center in Switzerland (who is quoted in the article), most terminally ill people do not actually go through with it, but still receive comfort from knowing that they could legally discuss assisted suicide with their doctor — just another benefit of allowing people the legal option to fully control their health care decisions, you might say.
That’s the latest question posed by the New York Times in the newspaper’s Room for Debate section:
You can read the eight different responses here.
A recent Gallup poll measured American moral approval and disapproval for 17 different activities, ranging from abortion and gay marriage to gambling and pornography. The most divisive issue: doctor-assisted suicide. The least divisive issue: having an extramarital affair. Here’s a look at the full survey.
You can find further breakdowns — by age and political affiliation — on the Gallup web site.