DOCTOR'S PRESCRIPTION

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Several polls on euthanasia and assisted suicide have been conducted among physicians. A survey conducted in 1997 (with results published in 2001) by Baylor College of Medicine professor Simon Whitney found that, by a 2-to-1 margin, rank-and-file doctors were less likely to oppose assisted suicide than were delegates to the American Medical Association. The poll surveyed 1,320 doctors — 930 rank-and-file and 390 AMA delegates — and had a response rate of 71 percent. Forty-five percent of non-delegate doctors favored legalization of assisted suicide, compared with 24 percent of the AMA delegates. The survey found that geographic region, gender and specialization had no apparent impact on opinion, while political and religious beliefs did. Doctors who identified themselves as conservatives and who considered religion very important were less inclined to favor legalization. Jewish doctors were more inclined to favor the move, while Roman Catholics were more likely to be opposed. A large percentage of doctors said they were “unsure� or “it depends� (22 percent of rank-and-file doctors and 15 percent of AMA delegates).

A 1998 survey of 3,299 oncologists nationwide, conducted by the National Institutes of Health, found that support for physician-assisted suicide fell to 23 percent in 1998 from 46 percent in 1994; support for euthanasia similarly declined, to 7 percent from 23 percent during the same time period. The survey's questions asked how the physicians would respond to a patient dying of prostate cancer, one who was in severe pain and unresponsive to treatment.


HIPPOCRATIC HYPOCRISY?

Compared with physicians who are delegates to the American Medical Association, nearly twice as many rank-and-file doctors favor assisted suicide.

Do you favor legalization of physician-assisted suicide?

RANK-AND-FILE DOCTORS AMA DELEGATES
Favor 45% 24%
Oppose 34% 62%
Not sure 22% 15%
Source: Baylor College of Medicine Study, 2001
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