RIGHTS AND LAST RITES

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According to a Harris Interactive poll conducted in December 2001, a majority of Americans support both euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide. Sixty-five percent say assisted suicide should be legal. A similar majority, 63 percent, disagree with the 1997 Supreme Court ruling dismissing the idea of a constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide. The Harris poll also shows (as does a similar poll by Gallup) that younger people favor assisted suicide and euthanasia more than older folks, often with a 20 percentage point spread between 18- to 29-year-olds and respondents 65 older.

A May 2002 Gallup poll also found majority support for both practices. Half the sample was asked, “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured and is living in severe pain, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it?� The other half was asked, “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?� Seventy two percent said yes to the latter, compared with 62 percent who said yes to the former.

WHERE SUPPORT LIES

More young people support assisted suicide than older Americans.

Do you think that the law should allow doctors to comply with the wishes of a dying patient in severe distress who asks to have his or her life ended, or not?

YES/SHOULD ALLOW NO/SHOULD NOT
Total 65% 29%
East 66% 27%
Midwest 63% 33%
South 62% 32%
West 74% 21%
Male 70% 24%
Female 61% 33%
White 68% 26%
Black 49% 46%
Hispanic 65% 27%
Source: Harris Interactive, December 2001
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