Survey Reveals Physician-Assisted Death Supporters

July 11, 2016, 12:00 PM HST · Updated July 10, 8:42 AM
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Maui Now stock photo. July 2016

Maui Now stock photo. July 2016

A new online survey by the Journal of Palliative Medicine showed that passing legislation to authorize medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option for terminally ill adults, showed positive support in diversely populated states (less than 50% white).

Bills have already been introduced in Hawai’i, Arizona, New Mexico and the District of Columbia.

“Personal preferences about end-of-life treatment are strongly related to… race and ethnicity,” concluded the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life in Nov. 2013. “Whites are more inclined to favor laws allowing [medical aid in dying] than are either blacks or Hispanics.”

Back in 2013, only four states with overwhelmingly white populations—Oregon (76%), Washington (70%), Montana (90%), and Vermont (94%)—had authorized terminally ill adults to have the option to obtain prescription medication they can decide to take to shorten their dying process if it becomes unbearable.

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The question became, would US states with more diverse populations (i.e., less than 50% white), such as Arizona (49%), California (39%), Hawai‘i (19%), New Mexico (40%), Texas (44%) as well as the District of Columbia (37%), authorize this end-of-life option as well?

Since last year, bills authorizing medical aid in dying have been introduced in every one of these jurisdictions, except Texas.

California became the fifth state to authorize medical aid in dying starting last month, after six failed attempts to do so over the prior two decades.

A newly released online survey published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, “Multi-Ethnic Attitudes Toward Physician-Assisted Death in California and Hawai’i,” suggests California could be an indication for other states with diverse populations to authorize medical aid in dying, especially Hawai‘i.

The survey’s findings included:

In Hawai’i, 77.9% of non-Hispanic whites, 77.5% of Asians, 75.3% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and 63.6% of Hispanics supported PAD.

In California, 75.6% of non-Hispanic whites, 74.3% of Asians, and 71.6% of Hispanics supported PAD compared to 59.6% of African Americans.

Within Asian Americans, Chinese most favorably supported PAD (82.7% in California and 85.5% in Hawai’i), followed by Japanese (74.6% in California and 76.5% in Hawai’i) and Filipino Americans (67.7% in California and 76.5% in Hawai’i).

In both states, participants who were deeply spiritual showed a slight majority of 52% who supported PAD.

This study shows that in the ethnically diverse states of California and Hawai’i, faith/religion/ spirituality and age are major influencers of attitudes toward PAD and not ethnicity and gender.

Even in the subgroups least supportive of PAD, the majority supports PAD.

Mary Steiner has been the campaign manager for Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i since 2012.

Charmaine Manansala is the national political director and former California political and field director for Compassion & Choices. She previously was a senior policy analyst for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

You can read the full story about the Journal of Palliative Medicine online survey by clicking here.

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