Americans Now Approve of Suicide, But Only With a Doctor’s Note


Via Matt Yglesias, here’s an interesting Gallup poll measuring American attitudes toward a variety of social behaviors. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a general shift leftward. Support is higher than it was 2001 for gay relations, sex between unmarried partners, medical research on human embryos, etc. Here’s the full table, with the result I found oddest highlighted in red:

Note that the moral acceptability of suicide has gone up slightly, but it’s still very low. Less than one-fifth of the country approves of it. But doctor-assisted suicide is a whole different story. More than half of all Americans approve of it.

I’m not quite sure what this means. Does approval by a guy in a white coat really mean that much to most Americans? Is there an assumption that “doctor-assisted” means that everything possible has been done to talk the patient out of suicide? Or is there an assumption that doctor-assisted suicide is always for people with end-stage diseases that leave them in constant pain?

I’m not sure. In any case, it’s also worth noting that public opinion has barely budged on several hot button issues. In particular, support for abortion, cloning, marital affairs, and the death penalty remains virtually unchanged over the past 15 years.