Survey: Two-Thirds of Americans, Majority of Christians Say Physician-Assisted Suicide is ‘Morally Acceptable’

By Amy Furr | December 8, 2016 | 5:04pm EST
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2015 making California one of the few states to legalize physician-assisted suicide. (AP photo)

( -- A recent survey by LifeWay Research reported that 67 percent of Americans believe it is morally acceptable for a terminally-ill patient to seek a doctor’s help in ending their life - including a majority who call themselves Christians.

Even though the American Medical Association has called physician-assisted suicide “fundamentally incompatible with a physician’s role as healer”, the survey found that “7 out of 10 agree that physicians should be allowed to assist terminally-ill patients in ending their life,” according to the survey of 1,000 Americans, which was conducted between September 27th and October 1st.  

“Traditional Christian teaching says that God holds the keys to life and death,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Those who go to church or hold more traditional beliefs are less likely to see assisted suicide as morally acceptable. Still, a surprising number do,” he added.

More than half of the religious people surveyed, including Catholics (70 %), Protestants (53%), Orthodox (59%), and members  of non-denominational churches (59%) said they believe the practice of physician-assisted suicide is morally acceptable.

The 76 percent of those who attend religious services less than once a month also agreed.

The survey findings were similar to a May 2015 Gallup survey that found that almost 68 percent of Americans believed that doctors should legally be allowed to assist their patients in committing suicide.

However, according to Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, physician -assisted suicide puts ill and marginalized people in a very vulnerable position.

“First, PAS (physician-assisted suicide) endangers the weak and marginalized in society. Where it has been allowed, safeguards purporting to minimize this risk have proved to be inadequate and have often been watered down or eliminated over time,” Anderson pointed out.  

“People who deserve society’s assistance are instead offered accelerated death,” he added.

Anderson also said that physician-assisted suicide “threatens to fundamentally distort the doctor—patient relationship because it reduces patients’ trust of doctors and doctors’ undivided commitment to the life and health of their patients.

“Doctors should help their patients die a dignified natural death, but doctors should not assist in killing or self-killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill,” he stated.

Currently, physician- assisted suicide is legal in Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana.

According to a November press release from Compassion & Choices, a non-profit organization that advocates physician-assisted suicide, Washington D.C. “is poised to become the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. where medical aid in dying is authorized for terminally ill residents after the D.C. Council passed the D.C. Death with Dignity Act by a veto-proof 11-2 margin.”

The bill’s passage “demonstrates strong public support across jurisdictions of diverse sizes, demographics and locations,” the group said.

However, McConnell said that physician- assisted suicide “raises troublesome questions.”

“Such requests are asking doctors to betray one of their most sacred oaths -- which admits, ‘It may also be within my power to take a life,’ but includes ‘I must not play God',” he said. 

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