Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe that physicians should be allowed rights to assist terminally ill patients with end of life practices, according to a new poll conducted by Gallup.
The poll found that 68 percent of respondents agreed with allowing doctors to help patients facing deadly diseases and illnesses in committing physician-assisted suicide. Support for the idea has increased rapidly, up 10 points from just one year ago.
The current polling numbers are the highest in history, tying with a 2001 poll which asked respondents their position on euthanasia practices.
Just two years ago, support for doctor-assisted suicide fell to 51 percent, arguably because of talk of so-called “death panels” during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the fall of 2013.
With the high profile case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard of California, who faced a terminally ill disease and later moved to Oregon where euthanasia is legal, the support for these end of life practices has increased. Maynard passed away via physician-assisted suicide on November 1, 2014. The California state legislature recently approved a measure that would allow physician-assisted suicide in the state for the first time in history.
Most of the increased support in the poll was generated from those ages 18 to 34, with a 19 point increase in approval, to 81 percent. Older age groups also saw increasing poll numbers for the practice, with 65 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds supporting the measure and 61 percent of those over age 55 also backing the idea.
In terms of political parties, Independents favor the practice the most, with eight out of 10 respondents supporting the practice. Registered Democrats approve of the idea with 72 percent support, while members of the Republican Party gave the idea 61 percent of their support, a 10 point increase since May 2014.
Powerful health-associated groups, such as the California Medical Association, did not support the California legislature’s attempts at making physician-assisted suicide a legal practice at first, but have since voiced their approval of the upcoming legislation. Some doctors are still not sure about legalizing the practice, though.
“I think it did tend to lead people toward thinking, ‘Well, if they’re in severe pain, they’re dying, then the only thing left would be to put them out of their pain,’” said Dr. Alvin Moss, the director of West Virginia University’s Center for Health Ethics and Law. “But I’d like to think that Americans aren’t going to only be left with that option,” he added.
The Gallup Values and Beliefs survey was conducted in early May, and included 1,024 randomly sampled adults, Metro News reports.
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