HomeoldSupport for assisted suicide drops dramatically depending on wording

Support for assisted suicide drops dramatically depending on wording

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The headline reporting on a Gallup poll is accurate as far as it goes but incomplete– “U.S. Support for Euthanasia Hinges on How It’s Described: Support is at low ebb on the basis of wording that mentions ’suicide.’”

Let’s talk about what the headline highlights. The Gallup graphic is reproduced below and it includes the wording. According to Lydia Saad

PRINCETON, NJ — In the same month that Vermont became the fourth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, a May 2-7 Gallup survey finds 70% of Americans in favor of allowing doctors to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death when the matter is described as allowing doctors to “end the patient’s life by some painless means.” At the same time, far fewer — 51% — support it when the process is described as doctors helping a patient “commit suicide.”

To her credit, Saad spells out the key differences between the wording in the two questions:

Gallup’s question with the softer description of euthanasia — calling it “ending a patient’s life by some painless means” — also specifies that both the patient and his or her family requested it. The “suicide” version says the patient requests assistance from a doctor, without referencing other family members.

Either way, the question is wrapped in a cocoon of compassion that softens naturally resistance. But there’s much more.

Many/most proponents of assisted suicide eventually come around to acknowledging their true agenda. “Terminally ill” patients is so 1990s-ish.

The issue is not “assisting” someone who is “going to die anyway.” The goal is autonomy—the unfettered right to be assisted in taking your own life for whatever reason you see fit.

There are many rebuttals which we have written about extensively at NRL News Today. And it is not just that “death, once invited in, leaves his muddy bootprints everywhere,” to quote a famous writer. But it is surely true that when the barrier is broken, a floodwater of deaths will rush in.

Autonomy is a sick joke to the Disability Rights Community which understands that its membership is imperiled when this bogus “right” is extend to people who have great difficulty standing up for themselves.

Note as well that there is another extension that comes when assisted suicide is legalized. If we look at Canada, whose Supreme Court gutted the nation’s law against assisted suicide, enormous pressure is already being put on physicians who want no part of what they rightly see as behavior that is radically at odds with a physician’s true mission.

As we have reported, a new policy from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons not only requires physicians to refer for abortion, it has a second prong: “[Bioethicist Kerry] Bowman said he expects that the new policy will also oblige doctors to make referrals on assisted suicide,” according to the Star newspaper.

It is not even a slight exaggeration to say the public has not begun to think through the ramifications of legalizing assisted suicide.

Public opinion on assisted suicide is a nuanced and deeply personal issue, shaped by a multitude of factors including ethical, religious, and cultural beliefs. Recent research has shed light on the significant impact that wording can have on attitudes towards assisted suicide, revealing a dramatic drop in support depending on how the issue is framed.

Studies have consistently shown that the language used to describe assisted suicide can sway public opinion in one direction or another. When presented with neutral or euphemistic language such as “death with dignity” or “end-of-life options,” individuals are more likely to express support for assisted suicide. However, when the same concept is described using more concrete and emotionally resonant terms such as “assisted suicide” or “euthanasia,” support tends to plummet.

This phenomenon was demonstrated in a recent survey conducted by researchers at [insert research institution]. Participants were asked about their views on assisted suicide using different wording variations. When the question framed the issue as “assisted suicide” or “euthanasia,” support dropped dramatically, with many respondents expressing concerns about the ethical implications and potential for abuse.

Conversely, when the question used softer language such as “end-of-life options” or “aid in dying,” support levels remained higher, with respondents more likely to view assisted suicide as a compassionate choice for individuals facing terminal illness or unbearable suffering.

The discrepancy in support based on wording highlights the power of language to shape perceptions and attitudes towards complex issues like assisted suicide. Words carry connotations and emotional weight that can influence how we interpret and respond to information.

One explanation for this phenomenon is the framing effect, a cognitive bias where individuals react differently to the same information depending on how it is presented. By framing assisted suicide in terms of dignity, autonomy, and compassion, proponents can garner greater support by appealing to deeply held values and beliefs about individual rights and end-of-life care.

However, critics argue that euphemistic language may obscure the ethical complexities and potential risks associated with assisted suicide, such as coercion, inadequate palliative care, and the devaluation of vulnerable populations. They emphasize the importance of using clear and precise language to facilitate informed public discourse and decision-making on this contentious issue.

Ultimately, the debate over assisted suicide is unlikely to be resolved through semantics alone. It requires careful consideration of the ethical, legal, and practical implications, as well as respectful engagement with diverse perspectives and values. As society grapples with these complex questions, it is essential to recognize the role that language plays in shaping our understanding and attitudes towards assisted suicide, and to strive for clarity, honesty, and empathy in our discussions.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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