More than two-thirds of Americans believe there are circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die, but they are closely divided on whether it should be legal for a doctor to help terminally ill patients end their own lives by prescribing fatal drugs, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds.
The results were released Tuesday, just days before euthanasia advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian is freed from a Michigan prison after serving more than eight years for second-degree murder in the poisoning of a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Kevorkian’s defiant assisted suicide campaign, which he waged for years before his conviction, fueled nationwide debate in the U.S. about patients’ right to die and the role that physicians should play.
Though demonized by his critics as a callous killer, Kevorkian – who is to be released Friday – maintains relatively strong public support. The AP-Ipsos poll found that 53 percent of those surveyed thought he should not have been jailed; 40 percent supported his imprisonment. The results were similar to an ABC News poll in 1999 that found 55 percent disagreeing with his conviction.
The new AP-Ipsos poll asked whether it should be legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives – a practice currently allowed in Oregon but in no other U.S. states. Forty-eight percent said it should be legal; 44 percent said it should be illegal.