June 10, 1990

Reflections of the Times

The Right to Die

Report Summary

Americans, by a wide six to one majority, support the right of patients to make their own decisions about receiving life-sustaining treatment. The public also overwhelmingly thinks that close family members should be allowed to make decisions about life-sustaining medical treatment, if the patient is unable to make his or her own wishes known. All segments of the public, including members of all major religious groups, support right-to-die policies. This support stems from the widely-held belief that physicians should sometimes allow a patient to die, rather than use the full range of medical procedures and treatments available.