Public attitudes to euthanasia appear dependent on how much pain a person is suffering, according to findings from a University mail survey.
Nearly 70 percent of surveyed respondents to a School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing survey support assisted suicide for someone with a painful, incurable disease, provided a doctor gives the assistance.
Support drops to around 45 percent if the person is not in pain. That level of support is also recorded for a person neither in pain nor with an incurable disease but who is permanently and completely dependent on others for all their physical needs.
The euthanasia questions were included the in the school’s annual survey of political and social issues carried out as part of the International Social Survey Programme.
It was sent to 935 New Zealanders between July and November last year had a response rate of 44 per cent.
Professor Philip Gendall, who leads the survey research team, says the result of the doctor-assisted euthanasia question were almost identical to a similar survey carried out a year earlier.
“Management of pain is a critical issue influencing attitudes to euthanasia, but within the population there are groups that are either in favour or opposed to euthanasia regardless of the circumstances,” he says.
In the latest survey opposition to doctor assisted euthanasia increased from 20 per cent to 40 per cent if the person was not in pain or did not have an incurable disease.
The specific wording of the questions asked and responses to them are shown below.
Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the patient requests it?
Don’t Know 12%
Suppose a person has an incurable disease, but with medication is not in pain. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the person requests it?
Don’t Know 16%
Suppose a person is not in pain and does not have an incurable disease but is permanently and completely dependent on others for all their physical needs. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life if the person requests it?
Don’t Know 18%