Human Exceptionalism

Pew Poll: Assisted Suicide Not as Popular as Advertised

A new Pew Poll is out with some very interesting results. First, only 44% support making it legal for doctors to assist the suicides of patients. When the terminology is changed to permit doctors to give their patients the means to make themselves die, the number is still only 51%. This is a far cry from the 70% polling data that proponents of euthanasia/assisted suicide generally tout as the level of public support.

My sense is that people generally would rather not think about it. They are certainly not marching in the streets demanding the right to be killed by doctors. But, with the exception of disability rights activists and pro lifers, most people aren’t motivated to actively fight legalization schemes, either.

As to “stem cell” research, the public seems to support it in pretty large and growing numbers. I am not surprised. First, if asked whether I supported “stem cell research,” I would say yes since that broad category includes adult stem cell research and experiments with umbilical cord blood stem cells. It is telling that the issue of adult stem cells is not mentioned in the poll. Second, the question is whether (embryonic) stem cell research is supported, not whether the federal or state governments should fund it, which is a different question. There are many people who support the research but oppose federal funding. Third, Big Biotech is spending millions promoting ESCR, which is sure to have an impact. Fourth, the media is still playing Ginger Rodgers to Big Biotech’s Fred Astaire, and remains fixated on describing the debate as being restricted to leftover IVF embryos that are going to be thrown out anyway. At the same time, the media generally fails to report or underreports the abundant–and ever-expanding–adult stem cell successes, which could make ESCR for medical cures unnecessary. And, the PEW polling questions did not ask the public’s opinion on human cloning,making embryos for use and destruction in research, or creating human/animal cloned chimeras. That is where the real heat is now in biotech (moving toward fetal farming in the years to come). Polling those issues would have given us a better picture of where the public is on the all-important human cloning debate.

There is other interesting data in the poll, much of which is beyond the scope of this WEB log. It looks as if Americans’ attitudes toward abortion are moving closer to the pro-life side (favor more restrictions but not outright overturning Roe v. Wade), pro death penalty, and increased, albeit still minority, support for gay marriage. Check it out.