Data Bits


"Data Bit" is a feature that has appeared in Free To Go, the cooperatively-produced newsletter of Canada's anglophone right-to-die groups, since issue 6:1 (Jan.-Mar. 2004).



Issue 9:1 (Jan.-Mar. 2007)

The number: 40 million

   What it is:
   The approximate number of Americans using a doctor who does not feel obligated to inform patients about treatment options (such as terminal sedation) which conflict with his or her personal moral code.
   In a survey of US doctors (sample size 1144) 14% of the respondents did not agree that when doctors object to a particular treatment they still must include that treat-ment among the options they present to the patient 8% said they definitely disagreed, and 6% were undecided.

   Discussion:
   Two relevant quotations --
(1) "You better darn well believe I want to impose my morality on these people."
(California politician Anthony Adams, explaining his opposition to a choice-in-dying bill being considered in his state)

(2) "If people are not prepared to offer legally permitted, efficient and beneficial care to a patient because it conflicts with their values, they should not be doctors."
(Medical ethicist Julian Savuescu, writing in the British Medical Journal in 2006)

   When published:
February 8, 2007 (in New England Journal of Medicine vol. 356, no. 6, pages 593-600)

   For more information:
http://euthanewsia.ca/en-thebulletin-PA-070321.html





Issue 8:2 (Apr.-Jun. 2006)

The number: 11 percentage points

   What it is:
The margin by which support for euthanasia exceeds support for assisted suicide, among Americans polled by Gallup from 2003 until 2006. (69% supported "doctor ending patient's life by painless means"; 58% supported "doctor assisting patient to commit suicide".)

   Comment:
   In English-speaking countries at least, the (potential) service providers namely doctors usually consider assisted suicide preferable to euthanasia. But the (potential) service consumers reverse that ranking. Laypeople probably view euthanasia as just one more occasion on which their doctor "takes care of them". The hope of being able to get such care can be quite strong, perhaps strong enough to interfere with reading ability: a 2000 survey of Oregon residents found that most believed the law they had recently voted for would allow them to receive not only assisted suicide but also euthanasia only 32% were aware that lethal injection was still prohibited. (This survey was reported in the November 15 2000 issue of JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association].)

   When published:
June 19, 2006

   For more information:
http://www.euthanewsia.ca/archive/anno/en-gallup-060619.html



Issue 7:4 (Oct.-Dec. 2005)

The number: 62%

  What it is:
Out of 677 American doctors polled in October by HCD Research, this many believe that physicians should be permitted to dispense life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients who have made a rational decision to die due to unbearable suffering.

  Comment:
"Although the high percentage of physicians who support the ability to prescribe such medications may be somewhat surprising, I believe it is the result of physicians' personal relationships with their patients and the desire to act in the best interest of each patient." (Dr. Craig Alter, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine)

  When published:
October 11, 2005

  For more information:
http://www.euthanewsia.ca/archive/anno/en-genengnews-051011.html



Issue 7:3 (Jul.-Sep. 2005)

The number: 7 percentage points

   What it is:
The difference between (a) how many Americans favour "making it legal for doctors to give terminally ill patients the means to end their lives" (51%) and (b) how many favour "making it legal for doctors to assist terminally ill people in committing suicide" (44%).

   What it suggests:
Words matter. If an act gets "committed" (not simply "done" or "carried out"), and if the name of the act ends in "icide" (rhymes with "homicide" and "patricide"), people are put off.

   Comment:
   There have been cases where a disliked term (e.g. "negro" or "mentally retarded") got replaced by a preferred term (e.g. "black" or "developmentally disabled"), presumably because writers and broadcasters felt sympathy for the people who wanted the change. This may happen with "assisted suicide", if the necessary sympathy comes into being.
   On the other hand, there are terms that probably seemed harsh at first but have not been replaced; instead they have just had their edges softened over time. Nowadays when people use the phrase "mercy killing" it is almost as if they are using a one-word term, a compound in which the "killing" segment has an effect gentler than what it would have if it were not joined with the "mercy" segment. A path like this may turn out to be the one that is followed by the phrase "assisted suicide".

   When published:
August 4, 2005

   For more information:
Princeton Survey Research Associates / Pew Research Center for the People and the Press / Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life



Issue 7:2 (Apr.-Jun. 2005)

The number: 75%

   What it is:
The percentage of respondents who answered "Yes" when asked by Gallup (USA) "When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient's life by some painless means if the patient and his family request it?"
Among people who described themselves as liberal, the percentage rose to 82%; among self-described conservatives it was 63%, though even among evangelical Christians it did not fall below 61%.
The 75% figure was a 6% increase over the percentage in a 2004 Gallup survey on the same topic.

   What it suggests:
Among Americans, support for physician-administered euthanasia is high and getting higher.

   When published:
May 17, 2005

   For more information:
http://www.euthanewsia.ca/archive/anno/en-Editor&publisher-050517.html
(the above must be typed in a single line without spaces)



Issue 7:1 (Jan.-Mar. 2005)

The number: 71%

   What it is:
American doctors who endorse the legalization of physician-assisted suicide under a wide variety of circumstances (41%), plus those who also endorse it but only in a narrow range of cases (30%).
The doctors in the sample were asked whether they considered themselves to be politically liberal or politically conservative. Of those who identified themselves as politically liberal, 81% said it is ethical to assist a patient who has opted for suicide; of those who identified themselves as politically conservative, 72% said assisted suicide is unethical.

   What it suggests:
A politically liberal government that legalized assisted suicide would have the support of doctors who are also politically liberal, and these doctors might well constitute the majority.

   When published:
March 3, 2005

   For more information:
http://www.euthanewsia.ca/archive/anno/en-businesswire-050303.html



Issue 6:3 (Jul.-Sep. 2004)

The number: 47%

     What it is:
Among 790 Britons recently surveyed, this many said they would provide help in dying to a loved one who was suffering unbearably.

     What it suggests:
"By saying they would be prepared to break the law if a terminally ill loved one asked them to, the public are sending a clear message to our lawmakers that the law needs reform." (Deborah Annetts, head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of England and Wales)

     When published:
September 9, 2004

     For more information:
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,11026,1300721,00.html