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Americans split on a patient's right to die

Most Americans seem to be split on end-of-life decisions. Some feel there are circumstances in which doctors and nurses should allow a patient to die/expire, while others feel doctors and nurses should do everything possible to save a patient’s life.

With this in mind, the Pew Research Center recently completed a survey to understand Americans’ views on end-of-life decisions. The research was conducted via phone during March and April 2013. The sample consisted of 1,994 American adults. The results can be found in the Pew Research Center's August report.

Some of the key findings included:

  • Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say there are at some situations in which a patient should be allowed to die, while nearly one-third (31%) say everything possible should be done to save a patient's life.
  • A majority of Americans say there are at least some situations in which they, personally, would want their medical treatment to be halted and be allowed to die, especially if they had an incurable disease and were suffering a great deal of pain (57%) or if they had an incurable disease that rendered them totally dependent on someone else for their care (52%).
  • An increasing number of Americans believe individuals have a moral right to end their own lives, with nearly six in 10 adults (62%) answering that individuals in a great deal of pain with no room for improvement and those individuals who have an incurable disease have a moral right to commit suicide.
  • When questioned about physician-assisted suicide, 47% approve and 49% disapprove of laws allowing a physician to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to a terminally ill patient.
  • Religious affiliation, race, and ethnicity all played a strong role in personal preferences about end-of-life treatment.
  • More than one-quarter of Americans (37%) have not thought about their end-of-life decisions, even among adults ages 75 and older.
  • About one-half of Americans (47%) have faced end-of-life issues with friends or families in the past five years.

Reference 1.