Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data

By Richard G. Niemi; John Mueller et al. | Go to book overview

10
Death and Dying

Ethical, medical, legal, and even economic studies of health care (e.g., Abrams and Buckner, 1983; VanDeVeer and Regan, 1987) have become de rigueur in programs of medicine, nursing, public policy, and philosophy. Attitudinal aspects--in the sense of informed consent of patients and relatives--play an important role in these discussions. Yet considered more broadly, public opinion has been measured and explored very little--at least in regard to death and dying. (Attitudes about abortion have been studied more extensively; see chapter 9.)

Fortunately, of the items now available, two were first asked forty years ago. To be sure, the direction of change simply verifies what what we might already suspect--that currently there is more sympathy for euthanasia when a patient has an incurable disease. What is far less obvious is how prevalent such views were years ago. As far back as 1947, nearly 40 percent of the population felt that doctors should be allowed to end a patient's life in the circumstances described in Table 10.1 and nearly 50 percent in the circumstances described in Table 10.2. (See also the response to a question about "mercy deaths" asked by Gallup in the 1930s; Ostheimer, 1980.)

As limited as the time series on euthanasia is, it shows two distinct changes and one unchanging result.1 First, the percentage who would allow euthanasia has increased dramatically, with similar degrees of change over the first twenty- five years and the last fifteen. Second, there is a declining difference between the percentage who would allow euthansia

____________________
1
The apparent crystallization of opinion--the decline in the proportion of DK responses in Table 10.1--may be a simple "house effect." NORC surveys tend to record fewer "don't know" responses.

-215-

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Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables vii
  • Acknowledgments xxi
  • Introduction 1
  • References 10
  • 1 - Politics 11
  • References 14
  • 2 - International Affairs 49
  • REPERENCES 51
  • 3 - Taxation and Spending 73
  • References 75
  • 4 - Confidence in Institutions 93
  • References 95
  • 5 - Political Tolerance 107
  • References 109
  • 6 - Crime and Violence 131
  • References 133
  • 7 - Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs 153
  • References 155
  • 8 - Race Relations 167
  • 9 - Sexual and Reproductive Morality 187
  • References 189
  • 10 - Death and Dying 215
  • References 216
  • 11 - Role of Women 223
  • References 224
  • 12 - Work 235
  • References 237
  • 13 - Religion 251
  • References 252
  • 14 - Family 265
  • 15 - Psychological Well-Being/Group Membership 287
  • References 288
  • Index of GSS Mnemonics 317
  • Index 321
  • About the Authors 327
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