By Sean Crowley
For the first time, most American physicians believe by a 23 percent margin (54% vs. 31%) that patients with an “incurable and terminal” disease should have the option to choose death with dignity, also known as the medical practice of aid in dying.
The previous Medscape survey on this issue in 2010 showed physicians support medical aid in dying by a five percent margin (46% vs. 41%).
“It represents a remarkable shift,” said Arthur Caplan, founding head of the division of bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, in an interview with NBC News. “If physician opposition continues to weaken, it is likely that despite fierce resistance from some religious groups and some in the disability community, more states will follow Oregon, Washington and Vermont, and legalize.”
The exact question wording in both the 2014 and 2010 surveys asking physicians if they support or oppose aid in dying, respectively, are below:
“I believe terminal illnesses such as metastatic cancers or degenerative neurological diseases rob a human of his/her dignity. Provided there is no shred of doubt that the disease is incurable and terminal, I would support a patient’s decision to end their life, and I would also wish the same option was available in my case should the need arise.”
“Physicians are healers. We are not instruments of death. This is wrong.”
Medscape conducted the 2014 poll between Sept. 18 and Nov. 12, so it received a significant part of the responses after the Oct. 6 launch of Brittany Maynard’s joint campaign with Compassion & Choices to authorize aid in dying in states nationwide.
In addition to death-with-dignity laws enacted in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, courts in Montana and New Mexico have authorized aid in dying.