Most Americans support allowing assisted suicide for the terminally ill, but only a third back it for people suffering from severe pain or disability who are not terminally ill
California looks set to become the fifth state to legalize assisted suicide, after the state's legislature approved a bill which would allow terminally ill patients to kill themselves with the help of their doctor. The law stipulates that doctors have to discuss the decision privately with the patient, and the law will expire in ten years requiring a vote to renew it. Governor Jerry Brown now has to decide whether to sign the bill into law. Religious groups have been prominent in opposition, citing religious concerns over the sanctity of life, but others have noted that the law could create potentially massive pressure on poorer patients to kill themselves rather than cost their families tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for end of life care.
YouGov's latest research shows that most Americans (54%) support allowing physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Only 24% of Americans oppose assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The country is much more divided when it comes to the question of assisted suicide for people who are not terminally ill but who are suffering from severe pain or disability. 36% of Americans support assisted suicide in this case, but 36% also oppose it.
The most religious Americans are the only group which tend to oppose assisted suicide for the terminally ill. 44% of people who say that religion is 'very important' in their lives oppose it, while 32% support it. 37% of Americans say that religion is 'very important' in their lives. A majority of every other group support the principle behind California's assisted suicide law.
Currently no state allows assisted suicide for people who are not terminally ill, but in other countries, for example Belgium, people suffering from debilitating and incurable diseases are allowed to commit suicide with the help of their doctor even if they are not terminally ill.