Thursday, October 30, 2014

Physician-Aided Dying: Americans' Views Vary

According to an October 22, 2014  story from the Pew Research Center, Americans of all ages divided over doctor-assisted suicide laws. After referencing the story of Brittany Maynard and the recently released IOM report on Dying in America, the story mentions a study that Pew released on November 21, 2013 on Americans’ views on end of life care.

The October 22, 2014 story notes that last year’s survey found that an overwhelming percentage (66%)  of Americans thought that folks had the right to die  certain cases.  There is less agreement on physician-aided dying, though it is close to even (47% favoring, 49% opposing).  The article mentions that there is not that much of a variance based on age, but more so based on “racial and ethnic group, religious group and political ideology.” There is some variation based on age on other issues, however. For example, on the topic of continued treatment in the face of disease without hope for improvement, more younger people wanted their doctors to do all that could be done to keep them alive. (“53% of those ages 18-29 say this, compared with about a quarter (24%) of those ages 50 and older”). As far as decision-making at the end of life, about 25% of those under the age of 30 responded that they’ve considerd this a lot while a little over 40% have not really though much about it, if at all. This compares to the 65+ generation with 47% of those reporting that they’ve given the matter a lot of thought and 32% some thought.

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Support for doctor assisted dying appears to be up in Canada as well ( In a recent Ipsos Reid poll support was lowest in the Prairie Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, at 79%, and highest in the Maritime Province of Nova Scotia at 89%. Overall 84% of Canadians said they support doctor assisted dying.

Assisted suicide remains a crime in Canada (where Criminal law is a federal responsibility). A case challenging this law is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada (Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. #35591-

The poll places support in Quebec at 85%. Quebec has recently passed An Act Respecting End-of-life Care ( to facilitate doctor assisted dying as a health care matter (and therefore within Provincial jurisdiction). The Quebec law will become effective in December, 2015. The Quebec law allows doctors to provide medical aid in dying under certain conditions. It is almost certain to be challenged by the federal government (and others) on constitutional grounds, unless the SCC strikes down the assisted suicide provisions of the Criminal Code in the Carter case.

Posted by: Doug Surtees | Oct 31, 2014 10:33:37 AM

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