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Survey Bodes Well for Diversely Populated States to Authorize Medical Aid in Dying

By Mary Steiner and Charmaine Manansala
Mary Steiner, Campaign Manager, Compassion & Choices Hawaii

Mary Steiner, Campaign Manager, Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i

“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.”

This conclusion seemed plausible at the time. Then, 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.

This demographic fact begged the question: would U.S. 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? Since last year, bills authorizing medical aid in dying have been introduced in every one of these jurisdictions, except Texas.

That question was answered a resounding “yes” when California became the 5th 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 a harbinger for other states with diverse populations to authorize medical aid in dying, especially Hawai‘i.

Charmaine Manansala, Political Director, Compassion & Choices

Charmaine Manansala, Political Director, Compassion & Choices

The survey’s findings included:

The Asian support in Hawai‘i for PAD (a/k/a medical aid in dying) is especially significant because this demographic group represents the majority (53%) of the state’s population.

The survey concluded:

“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 & Choice, the nation’s largest organization advocating for the full range of options for end-of-life care. 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.