Americans overwhelmingly support physician-assisted suicide for those suffering from painful terminal illnesses, though the majority of evangelicals disagree with that sentiment, according to a new poll from LifeWay Research.
In fact, 67 percent of Americans believe it is “morally acceptable” for a person “facing a painful terminal disease…to ask for a physician’s aid in taking his or her own life,” while just 33 percent disagree with this sentiment. On the flip side, 62 percent of evangelical Christians disagree, with just 38 percent agreeing.
Clearly, the country as a whole supports doctor-assisted suicide, though the paradigm becomes more complicated when it comes to assessing Christians’ beliefs on the matter.
“If they are facing a slow, painful death, Americans want options,” Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay, said in a statement. “Many believe that asking for help in dying is a moral option. They don’t believe that suffering until they die of natural causes is the only way out.”
Other faith groups tend to be more supportive of doctor-assisted suicide, with 70 percent of Catholics, 84 percent of those who are atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated with a Christian faith and 53 percent of Protestants agreeing. Overall, 59 percent of Christians agree with the idea that it is morally acceptable for those with painful terminal illnesses.
It’s not surprising, though, that some Christians — and particularly evangelicals — are skeptical when it comes to doctor-assisted suicide, as McConnell noted that “traditional Christian teaching says God holds the keys to life and death.” For these individuals, faith and religious practice play a major role when it comes to views on assisted suicide.
He continued, “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.”
There’s also the issue, though, of doctors taking an oath to uphold life, with some critics seeing physician-assisted suicide as a violation of that pledge. Just consider the fact that the American Medical Association — the most prominent medical group in the U.S. — recently affirmed its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
In a recent document highlighting its ethical stance, the AMA said “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good,” as Deseret News recently reported.
“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks,” the document reads.
Doctor-assisted suicide is currently legal in six states: Oregon, California, Vermont, Washington, Montana and Colorado, with the District of Columbia also passing a resolution that must be reviewed by Congress before taking effect.
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