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Most Americans—and most Catholics—favor right to suicide in extreme cases, new poll says

November 21, 2013

Most Americans, and most self-described Catholics, believe that individuals have a right to end their own lives when they are suffering from a painful and incurable illness, according to a Pew Forum poll.

The Pew survey found that 62% of all adults support a right to suicide in such cases. Support was even higher—67%-- among white Catholics, and slightly lower—56% among Hispanic Catholics. Among the religious groups surveyed, only Evangelical Protestant failed to give majority support to the proposition that someone suffering an incurable and painful illness has the right to end his own life. Among Americans with no religious affiliation, support for suicide in such cases was an overwhelming 85%.

When the Pew study asked whether someone with an incurable illness has the right to suicide, the results were similar, but support was lower. A majority of the general public (56%) still favored the right to suicide, and a larger majority (62%) of white Catholics, but not quite half (46%) of Hispanic Catholics.

A bare majority (52%) of those polls supported the right to suicide in cases when the patient found life burdensome. Only 47% of white Catholics supported that proposition, and 33% of Hispanic Catholics.

The Pew Forum study did not distinguish between practicing and non-practicing Catholics. The Church teaches that it is never morally justifiable to take direct steps to end a human life—although it may be morally acceptable to refuse burdensome medical treatment.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Defender - Nov. 22, 2013 3:00 AM ET USA

    So much for Catholic teachings, though I'll bet most were never taught why these are wrong.

  • Posted by: unum - Nov. 21, 2013 6:31 PM ET USA

    After 25 years as a hospice volunteer, I know that the Catholic bishops and their priests are woefully unprepared to teach the faithful on suicide (assisted and unassisted) related to terminal illness (physical and mental). Respect for life in the elderly is an important part of the seamless garment of respect for life, but the clergy is unprepared to debate the moral case with the progressive left in the public square. The clergy would rather tell Congress how to vote on spending!

  • Posted by: - Nov. 21, 2013 3:51 PM ET USA

    And most American Catholics are favorable to abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, and now also to assisted suicide? Hellooooo! Are the bishops awake for this? The flock is scattering and they seem to not notice.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Nov. 21, 2013 3:42 PM ET USA

    Well, I guess the 'good news' is that the Church in America hasn't failed miserably ONLY in its duty to teach sexual morality. At least we have the consolation of having been consistent across the board, so to speak.