Now, here’s something remarkable, considering the sharply divided issues we’ve considered recently! It concerns this question: Do you have the right to decide about life and death?
I recently returned from a funeral in the Appalachian Mountains for my uncle. It was a military ceremony, honoring his service as a marine in WW II. He fought at Tarawa, for example—one nasty piece of business in the Pacific. My uncle was one of the lucky ones. Sad as it was, he had lived a long and full life. He was a bit frail, but lived at home almost until the end. He had command of his faculties and could get around. He spent only a short period of time in the VA hospital before passing away. (The photo today is not of my uncle’s funeral. It’s a news photo from a 2002 funeral of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan. But you can see the emotion and reverence that accompany such life passages.)
Not everyone who reaches advanced age in America has an end as graceful as my uncle experienced. For many, the end of life is fraught with pain and suffering. That’s one reason so many Americans support an individual’s right to decide to die or to be kept alive.
Almost all Americans (84%) approve of laws that let patients decide about being kept alive through medical treatment, according to a national poll by the Pew Research Center. The right to make your own end-of-life decisions is one of the rare instances when Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree. A large majority of Americans (70%) also say that, sometimes, patients should be allowed to die. On this Republicans, Democrats, and Independents also agree, according to poll results.
That’s remarkable unity, isn’t it? There are, however, big differences by race and religion. Most white Americans (75%) say that patients should be allowed to die, compared with less than half of African Americans (40%). Mainline Protestants and the “Nones” (no religious affiliation) are more likely to say that there are times when a patient should be allowed to die, compared with Catholics and (white) evangelical Protestants.
Where are you on this issue? Are you among the majorities that support the individual’s right to end-of-life decisions? Or, are you among the opposition? Whatever your position, what are your reasons?
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