Most Americans believe euthanasia should be made legal, and that a doctor should be allowed to end his patient's life by painless means should that person request it, a new Gallup poll
The numbers of people in favor of the practice has climbed steadily from the 1940s and 1950s, when most people thought it should be illegal:
- 69 percent now favor the practice;
- 36 percent favored it in 1950;
- 1973 marked the first time Gallup found Americans favored the measure;
- 1990, 65 percent approved;
- 51 percent say they would consider ending their lives if faced with terminal illness;
- About half of Americans say doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable
Over the past 25 years, Americans have remained solidly in favor of euthanasia, with between 64-75 percent favoring the practice.
The poll comes as California has passed its own right-to-die law, allowing terminally-ill patients, under certain criteria, to seek life-ending drugs from their doctors.
The new law was passed following the case of Brittany Maynard, a woman who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in California, reports Gallup. The 29-year-old moved with her family to Oregon, which at that time was one of five states that allowed physician-assisted suicide at the time. She died on Nov. 1, 2014.
But even though most Americans agree with doctor-assisted suicide, just 51 percent said they'd consider killing themselves if they had an incurable disease and were living in severe pain, a drop from 59 percent in 2005, when Gallup answered the question while the Terri Schiavo controversy
The numbers have been fluctuating over whether Americans find doctor-assisted suicide morally acceptable, with 53 percent now agreeing that it is. Those numbers have fluctuated between 45-56 percent since 2001, with the highest numbers coming in 2015, at 56 percent.
The word "suicide" affected many responses, indicating that some may not understand the difference between a patient dying with self-administered medication and with doctors taking action to end that patient's life.
California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico are the only states that allow physician-assisted suicide.
The poll was conducted from May 4-8, using a random sample of 1,025 adults, and carried a 4-point margin of error.
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