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Americans want choice to end life: poll
May 15, 2008 / 4:45 PM / 10 years ago

Americans want choice to end life: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Most Americans believe the choice to end one’s life is a personal decision and that physician-assisted death should be legal, according to a new survey.

An unidentified man suffering from Alzheimer's disease and who refused to eat sleeps peacefully the day before passing away in a nursing home in the Netherlands. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

More than 80 percent of adults questioned in the poll by Knowledge Networks said the right to die should not be decided by the government, church or a third party, yet only 50 percent of Americans over 60 and less than 25 percent of younger people said they have a living will.

“People put that off. They’re in denial and they have their heads in the sand,” said Dave Bunnell, editor-in-chief of ELDR magazine, which commissioned the poll.

“Unforeseen events are always around the corner. You can become paralyzed. You can be put in a state where you can’t really communicate and can’t make your wishes known and for that reason, you want them known in advance so people don’t do the wrong thing,” he said in an interview.

Slightly more than 66 percent of the 1,000 Americans questioned in the online poll said they wanted physician -assisted suicide to become legal in their state.

Nearly half said they could eventually become the primary caregiver to elderly family members or friends.

Oregon is the first state in the country where physician-assisted death is legal for certain terminally ill patients. Washington is currently looking to become the second state to legalize the practice, according to the magazine.

The poll also showed that more than 90 percent of people said they would want artificial life support stopped if they were in a persistent vegetative state. Over 80 percent said they wanted the option of being sedated if they were suffering.

Reporting by Irene Kuan; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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