Views on End-of-Life Medical Treatments

Pew Research, November 21, 2013

At a time of national debate over health care costs and insurance, a Pew Research Center survey on end-of-life decisions finds most Americans say there are some circumstances in which doctors and nurses should allow a patient to die. At the same time, however, a growing minority says that medical professionals should do everything possible to save a patient’s life in all circumstances.

When asked about end-of-life decisions for other people, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say there are at least some situations in which a patient should be allowed to die, while nearly a third (31%) say that medical professionals always should do everything possible to save a patient’s life. Over the last quarter-century, the balance of opinion has moved modestly away from the majority position on this issue. While still a minority, the share of the public that says doctors and nurses should do everything possible to save a patient’s life has gone up 9 percentage points since 2005 and 16 points since 1990.


Religion and End-of-Life Care

Personal preferences about end-of-life treatment are strongly related to religious affiliation as well as race and ethnicity. For example, most white mainline Protestants (72%), white Catholics (65%) and white evangelical Protestants (62%) say they would stop their medical treatment if they had an incurable disease and were suffering a great deal of pain. {snip} By contrast, most black Protestants (61%) and 57% of Hispanic Catholics say they would tell their doctors to do everything possible to save their lives in the same circumstances. On balance, blacks and Hispanics are less likely than whites to say they would halt medical treatment if they faced these kinds of situations.

Religious groups also differ strongly in their beliefs about the morality of suicide. About half of white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants reject the idea that a person has a moral right to suicide in all four circumstances described in the survey. By comparison, the religiously unaffiliated, white mainline Protestants and white Catholics are more likely to say there is a moral right to commit suicide in each of the four situations considered. {snip}



The Pew Research survey also asked a question about end-of-life medical decisions for other people. Respondents were asked to choose between two statements: 1) Doctors and nurses should do everything possible to save the life of a patient in all circumstances, or 2) Sometimes there are circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die. The survey question poses a stark contrast, and both options leave the hypothetical patient’s own wishes unstated. Nevertheless, this forced-choice question provides a useful gauge of overall public attitudes about end-of-life treatment.



Public opinion on laws that would allow physician-assisted suicide is closely divided, with 47% approving and 49% disapproving of laws that would allow medical doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill patients who choose to commit suicide.




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  • bigone4u

    I am in an HMO and was trying to find a new primary physician in small town south Texas. One white to pick from–the rest Arabs, Hindus, and Mexicans with low customer ratings. I cannot make a statement about morality, but as a practical matter I don’t want some foreigner “helping” me to commit suicide against my will. And don’t think they won’t pressure you into that kind of decision if it helps their bottom line with the HMO.

  • Puggg

    This is a bit surprising to me. I thought religious people would want to do everything to keep these kind of patients alive as long as possible. But here they say they’re more likely to want to let go, more likely than non-religious. And the race gap is way bigger.

    Maybe because religious people are certain that there’s somewhere to go after this is all over.

    • Talltrees

      “Maybe because religious people are certain that there’s somewhere to go after this is all over.”
      Yes, but the Christian Bible states suicide is a sin.
      The results are surprising, but, then, I’m not sure many of those claiming religious affiliation know suicide is a sin.
      We need to be careful when listening to doctors who claim nothing more can be done. I know of a patient who had been in that predicament. Treatment by specialists extended her life by five years. My experience with some doctors is that they are killing patients due to errors and thinking they are old and “Why bother.” They have the God syndrome.

      • Ella

        How many Whites want a bunch of the 3rd Worlders to literally take care of them being terminally ill or at the end of life? To reject medical treatment knowing that there is no cure is not suicide. It may be acceptance of one’s condition. Extending life can also be cruel or playing God if the ill person is in terrible pain, especially from cancer.

        • John K

          Yeah, think of how many whites are mistreated and beaten by these affirmative action savages for being white.

        • Talltrees

          I’ve seen the errors of third-worlders. We need to establish our own communities with White doctors and hospitals.
          “To reject medical treatment knowing that there is no cure is not suicide. ”
          Rejecting treatment is one thing, but ‘assisted suicide’ is helping someone commit suicide using lethal drugs. Huge difference.

          “Extending life can also be cruel or playing God if the ill person is in terrible pain, especially from cancer.”

          There are good prescription pain medications that work. Morphine is normally given at the end; therefore, patients are not aware of what is happening to them.

          My comments were just a warning. Doctors are not always right. There are other terminal medical condtions besides cancer. We don’t want to kill patients who might respond well to appropriate treatment.

          If assisted suicide was legal, think of how many patients might consider it when all treatments have not been tried. Patients foolishly believe everything their doctors tell them. It’s wise to get other opinions. The patient I mentioned lived very well her last five years. Why commit suicide because of a doctor’s error in judgement?

  • 1stworlder

    Even if they don’t approve an affirmative action medical worker can take the choice out of their hands.

  • Max Krakah

    Whites are thinking of the older generation that gave their birthright away, yeah, pull the plug on them, and especially the old hippies!

  • Spartacus

    I support any non-White that thinks killing himself is a good idea.

  • Ella

    I’m not too surprised with their findings. Blacks and Hispanics are used to being taken care of by the establishment.

  • Alexandra1973

    I’m against doctor-assisted suicide. I imagine, though, that if you’re an elderly person, warehoused in a nursing home and basically treated like you’re a burden, suicide seems a bit preferable.

    • Katherine McChesney

      My maternal grandmother lived in a nursing home in Las Vegas in the late 70’s. My aunts were in fear for her life as black orderlies were raping them. They moved her to a better facility as they were unable to care for her in their homes.

      • Alexandra1973

        I can understand putting someone in a nursing home if they cannot be cared for at home (my father-in-law is an example). I’m talking about people who just can’t be bothered with their elderly relatives. Motive.

        I suspect my maternal grandparents might have suffered abuse in the nursing home they were in (they died in the 90s).

  • IstvanIN

    Doesn’t doctor assisted suicide compromise the Hippocratic oath?

    • Talltrees


      • Alexandra1973

        So does abortion. Of course the oath has since been changed to omit that.

    • People don’t really need a doctor to “help” them in this respect. Dr. Kervorkian’s “assists” were almost entirely women. Terminally ill men are still usually capable of hanging or shooting themselves, and so do these things without assistance. Women are a bit squeamish, even though they’re the ones who give birth. Some of my friends have died of cancer. Wasting away to a living skeleton in a hospice isn’t for me. I’ve always been afraid of heights, so I figure in my own case that skydiving without a parachute would be a fine way to take care of business. The Royal Gorge Bridge is fairly close, and at 955 feet above the Arkansas River, it provides a reasonable drop. If and when a doctor someday tells me that it is going to be soon, I intend to have some fun with the process.

      Blacks and Hispanics aren’t very honest about anything else in life, so expecting them to have an honest relationship with mortality is wildly unrealistic.

      • Max Krakah

        the methods with the highest rates of success are jumping from a great height or jumping in front of a train. Hanging?….Well, if it doesn’t work right, it won’t be pleasant. Shooting? Believe it or not, people sometimes survive, even when they shoot themselves in the head, and then they are horribly maimed. Jumping is the way to go, when you hesitate when you pull a trigger, your hand moved the gun, when you hesitate when you jump, you still fall.

        • Katherine McChesney

          I read that ‘jumpers’ die of a heart attack before they hit the ground.

          • I figure I’ll keep my eyes open and look at the ground as it rushes toward me. A person only gets to do that once, so it should be a special experience. I do wonder how many of them change their minds on the way down.

            A guy I knew in federal prison had tried to commit suicide with a shotgun while he was out on bond. He blew most of his face off and lived. The feds made him do his sentence anyway, and he had the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. Depression or fear of prosecution and incarceration is not a valid reason for suicide, though I’ve seen that too, firsthand: a guy hanged himself ten feet away from me. He jumped off the upper tier with sheets tied around his neck at breakfast in the DCJ, and I heard his neck break. He lived. Since he was talking to us, I guess he wasn’t paralyzed, but we were ordered into lockdown.

            I’ve been in despair; I know it backwards and forwards. I once thought about wasting myself, but if I had done that, I wouldn’t have Sayaka, and Ariadne would never have been born.

            Today I made oatmeal cookies with M&Ms in them. Someone gets to be happy once in a while.

        • RyanP

          Yes. There is an alarming failure rate to many suicide methods. The thought of botching a suicide is more horrifying to me than death itself. I think the best thing is to combine several methods together.

      • Whitetrashgang

        Its a good idea just have a few drinks, kill you enemies, have a few more drinks and jump. Its something that should be taught in every school.

      • RyanP

        I agree. Dying in a hospice is not for me either. But I think the issue with assisted suicide is that the patient wants to live as long as they can. They are willing to suffer to some degree in order to get as many days as they can, but want the comfort of knowing a doctor will finish the job for them when they get too weak to use a standard suicide method.

    • RyanP

      I really don’t think it applies. If the patient wants death then I don’t see it as “doing harm”.

  • dd121

    Of course the blacks want grandpa to stay on life support for an extra month or so, they’re not paying for it.

  • ben no

    Of course whites are more compassionate in nature, and thus will insist the end of suffering in a patient.

    • Max Krakah

      Silva should have been put down the way they do race horses.

  • That one has been all over the TV news. My wife asked me why this “liberal in a suit” was leading that family on, and my answer was simply “so he can get paid”. The parents are understandably upset over the loss of their daughter, and that means billable hours for the lawyer some cat barfed up into their lives. He’s encouraging them in their denial in order to make a quick dollar.

    They feel guilty for arranging the tonsillectomy, and signing the papers for the operation that got their child killed has to be a hell of a thing, but everyone made the best decision they could at the time. Perhaps they should have fed the kid a bit less and taken her on more walks, but that’s also water under the bridge. There are sometimes no good answers here, even when you have an attorney. Their daughter might have a pulse and a blood pressure, but whatever made her special to that couple is gone. What they’ve been convinced to do by their church and that insect who passed a bar exam is different from the way the Egyptians preserved dead pharaohs only in the technology involved.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Anytime now they will find a way to play the race card.

    • itdoesnotmatter

      Your patience and compassion run far deeper than mine, Christopher. I am am beginning to see this as another
      shakedown, the mama’s wailing act each time a camera is on her as “looks at me” nonsense.
      The child was vastly overweight, which always adds a major surgical risk, yet, I cannot explain why she bled out and arrested after discharged home, which obliges one to question: what really happened there?
      There may be more here than meets the eye. As things are evolving, it’s likely to become a lottery win for her mother.

  • Alexandra1973

    If she’s brain dead, the plug should be pulled.

    • Mrs. Schiavo also really was brain-dead. It had withered inside her. Sometimes one really does have to let go of a family member, a good friend or a well-loved officer.

      • Alexandra1973

        It was shown to have been withered at the autopsy because she had gone two weeks without fluids.

        At any rate, I believe she was murdered. That sets a pretty dangerous precedent.

        • Ella

          Being a bulimic, Mrs. Schiavo started to destroy herself for many years. I knew a bulimic once, and she had this problem from teenage years before she met her husband. Women tend to have a similar rate of eating disorders like men with alcoholism. She continued bulimia even after having three beautiful children. Yes, she was selfish much like any husband/father actively boozing with a family.

  • Ella

    All races put themselves first except for Whites nowadays. We’re trained and guilted differently to serve others out of Christian work ethics to a point of self-destruction -martyrdom. It is a form of narcissism ……a Western disease.

  • Whitetrashgang

    That what I advocate, it just makes sense.

  • I think they should be allowed to make any arrangements they want for their daughter, provided they are the ones paying the bills. Not Children’s Hospital and not even some insurance company that would have to charge everyone else higher rates: this needs to come out of the Afritard couple’s own bank account.

  • 123MariaOconnor123

    Catholic church is against assisted suicide, is considered a sin and a crime.

  • RyanP

    If I have already lived the average life expectancy and the prospects for my future quality of life falls below a certain threshold I would like to state, do not do anything extraordinary or expensive in order to save me. If the taxpayers are paying my health care costs I don’t want to burden them, if I am paying out of my own pocket I would rather see my remaining fortune used to help my descendants in some way. It makes more sense than keeping an old man hobbling around a bit longer.

    I don’t know how many whites share my view on this, but I am pretty sure there will be more whites than blacks that agree with me.