Americans say, Keep your laws off my body’

Sentiment growing in favor of legalization

Americans overwhelmingly oppose attempts by Congress to prohibit physicians from prescribing medication terminally ill patients can take to end their lives. In fact, 72% oppose any federal legislative involvement, while only 26% support it.

That’s one finding from a random survey of 1,000 U.S. residents in July 1998. The survey was conducted by GLS Research in San Francisco on behalf of Portland-based Compassion in Dying. Other findings include the following:

    • 69% support the legalization of physician assistance in dying, while 23% oppose it.

    • 66% favor Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, and the same percentage would be inclined to support a similar law in their own states.

    • 10% feel decisions about the appropriateness of medical procedures should be made at the federal level — either by Congress or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

    • 76% agree Congress should not be involved in regulating legal drugs prescribed by physicians to their patients.

    • 90% agree it should be up to local physicians and medical boards, not the federal government, to determine what is appropriate treatment for the terminally ill.

    • 69% agree with the following statement about end-of-life care: "When a person is dying of a terminal disease, he should be allowed by law to request and receive help from his physician to end his life."

    • Of those registered to vote, 68% overall support the previous statement. 70% of those who claim to be Independents agree with the statement; 68% of Democrats agree; and 59% of Republicans agree.

    • 74% agree with the statement, "People in the final stages of a terminal disease who are suffering and in pain should have the right to get help from their doctor to end their life if they so choose."

    • 75% oppose Congress taking action to overturn Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.

    • 80% agree with the statement that "since Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved the state law allowing terminally ill patients in Oregon to get a prescrip t ion for medication to end life, Congress should respect the will of these voters and not try to overturn Oregon’s law."

    • 76% agree with the statement, "It is not appropriate for Congress to get involved in regulating legal drugs prescribed by physicians to their patients."

    • 72% oppose "federal legislation that would prohibit physicians from prescribing medications that terminally ill patients could request to end life."

    • 93% agree that "Physicians should be allowed to prescribe whatever medication they feel is necessary to alleviate the pain of terminally ill patients in their final days."