Skip to site content

Survey Highlights Changing Perceptions on End-of-Life Issues

A recent Pew Research Center survey provides a glimpse into changing perceptions on end-of-life issues in the U.S.
In 2013, 66 percent of U.S. adults agreed that there were circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die while 31 percent said medical professionals should do everything possible to keep a patient alive.

“The view that sometimes a patient should be allowed to die has remained the majority position in Pew Research surveys since 1990,” Pew noted. “However, the share of the public that says there are circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die has declined slightly over that period.”

Religious affiliation influenced responses.

When asked if there were circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die, 80 percent of white Catholics said yes, compared to 76 percent of white mainline Protestants, 68 percent of white Evangelicals, 41 percent of black Protestants and 32 percent of Hispanic Catholics.

Regarding suicide, 62 percent of all U.S. adults believed a person had a moral right if they were suffering and had no hope of recovery, compared to 56 percent for patients with incurable diseases.

“Personal preferences about end-of-life treatment are strongly related to religious affiliation as well as race and ethnicity,” Pew commented. “Religious groups also differ strongly in their beliefs about the morality of suicide.”

Of the white, mainline Protestants surveyed, 71 percent agreed that a patient had a moral right to suicide when he or she was in great pain with no hope of improvement.

By comparison, 67 percent of white Catholics, 56 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 42 percent of white Evangelicals and 41 percent of black Evangelicals agreed with this sentiment.

The survey also inquired about preparation for end-of-life treatments, proxy decision-making for children and adults as well as perceptions regarding the characteristics of a good quality of life.

The complete results can be found here.