More Than 65% of Family Caregivers Support the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide survey data reveals that the majority of family caregivers support their elderly loved one's ability to seek physician-assisted suicide as means to end terminal suffering

Jun 04, 2013, 08:00 ET from

NAPLES, Fla., June 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Last month, Vermont became the third state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. With at least seven additional states currently considering similar legislation, conducted a survey to gauge sentiment among those who are closest to the patients for whom the bill is primarily intended to help: the terminally ill elderly who are near death, without hope of recovery.

Physician-Assisted Suicide Survey Results

  • More than 1,200 people taking care of elderly parents or family members participated in the May 2013 survey
  • 65% of these familiar caregivers believe that physician-assisted suicide should be legal, while 35% are opposed.
  • Of those in support of physician-assisted suicide, 51% said they would be present as their loved one carried out their choice, while 16% said they would participate by helping to administer the lethal dose of meds.
  • If roles were reversed and it was the caregiver who was terminally ill and suffering, more than 63% said they would seek physician-assisted suicide for themselves. Of these, 72% believe their family would support their decision.
  • Of the 37% who said they would not seek physician-assisted suicide as an option for themselves, over 78% cited both moral and religious reasons for their decision.

The survey is unique in that its respondents are primarily those who have been caring for an ailing loved one throughout their elder years. The fact that these caregivers bear firsthand witness to their loved one's end-of-life struggles likely accounts for the higher support rate in comparison to other polls, such as a 2012 NPR poll that reported 55% of Americans supported physician-assisted suicide. 

As shared by one caregiver during a medical assisted suicide debate on the Forum, "Having watched my Grandmother and Father suffer for years has made me dread coming to the end of my life. Death doesn't frighten me, but the loss of dignity, the pain, the dependence upon others for everything, that really does frighten me." Still, as seen in the Caregiver Forum, the opinions among family caregivers on this subject – and many others –remain deeply divided.

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