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Euthanasia and Terri Schiavo

Opinions of the American public

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Opinions of the American public:

Several national polls of adult Americans have been conducted recently:

bullet 2005-MAR-1 to 2: Fox News and Opinion Dynamics Poll conducted a poll of 900 registered voters.
bullet 59% of those polled said that if they were Terri's guardian, they would have the feeding tube removed; 24% would kept it inserted.
bullet When asked what they would want done if they were in Terri Schiavo's situation, 74% would prefer the feeding tube be removed; 16% disagreed.
bullet The margin of error is ~+mn~3%. 1
bullet 2005-MAR-10 to 13: ABC News and Washington Post conducted a poll of 1,001 American adults.
bullet An overwhelming majority, 87%, said they would not want to be kept alive if they were in Schiavo's condition. The margin of error is ~+mn~3%. 2
bullet 2005-MAR-20: ABC News conducted a poll among 501 American adults.
bullet They found that 78% of those polls would not want to be kept alive if they were in Terri Schiavo's condition; 16% would wish to remain alive.
bullet 70% of those polled felt that it was inappropriate for Congress to become involved in the case. 27% felt it was appropriate.
bullet 63% of those polled support the removal of Terri's feeding tube; 28% favor its re-insertion. The opinion varied among persons of different religious affiliations:
bullet 46% of Evangelical Protestants favor removal; 44% are opposed.
bullet 63% of Roman Catholics favor removal; 26% are opposed.
bullet 77% of non-Evangelical Protestants favor removal; 18% oppose. 3
bullet The margin of error is 4.5% 1
bullet The conservative Christian group WorldNetDaily suggests that the results of this poll are unreliable because the preamble to the polling question was deceptive. The polling subjects were told that "Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years...Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible." They suggest that the term "life support" does not accurately describe a feeding tube. They feel that Terri is conscious, disabled and treatable.
bullet 2005-MAR-21 to 22: CBS News conducted a poll among 737 American adults. The margin of error is ~+mn~4 percentage points. They determined that:
bullet 82% of American adults believe that the Congress and President should stay out of the matter. 89% of Democrats, 84% of liberals, 76% of conservatives, 72% of Republicans, and 68% of white Evangelical Christians agree. Overall, 13% disagree.
bullet 74% believe that Congress became involved in order to advance a political agenda.
bullet Public approval of Congress was 34%, a drop from 41% in February, and the lowest value since 1997.
bullet President Bush's overall approval rating has dropped to 43% from 49% in February.
bullet 66% believe that Terri's feeding tube should not be reinserted; 27% disagreed.
bullet 61% believe that the case should not be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court; 37% disagreed.
bullet 78% feel strongly about the issue; 19% do not feel strongly.
bullet 75% feel that governments should stay out of end-of-life matters. 13% believe that state governments should be involved; 9% feel that the federal government should decide.
bullet 82% would wish that their feeding tube be removed if they were in a coma. This is a slight reduction from 85% in 1990. This question does not relate directly to Terri Schiavo's case. People in a coma -- even one of long duration -- sometimes recover. There is a general agreement among physicians and courts that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, with an atrophied cerebral cortex, and has no chance of recovering.
bullet 62% feel that a person's spouse should make the final decision for patients in a vegetative state; 15% say it should be up to the parents; 10% say it should be decided by adult children.
bullet 63% believe that it is not murder if a doctor injects a terminally ill patient with a lethal dose of drugs; 28% say it is the same as murder.
bullet 35% believe that abortion should be generally available; 37% believe that abortion should be more strictly limited; 25% believe that abortion should not be permitted.
bullet 26% regard themselves as either an evangelical or born-again Christian. 73% do not; 1% don't know or didn't respond.
bullet 2005-APR-1 & 2: A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll was conducted among 1040 American adults. The margin of error is ~+mn~3 percentage points. Some results:
bullet 53% thought that the feeding tube should have been removed. This is a drop from 56% during MAR-18 to 20.
bullet 41% thought that the feeding tube should not have been removed. This is an increase from 31% on MAR-18 to 20.
bullet 76% disapproved of Congress' involvement in the case; 20% approved; 4% had no opinion. 7

We have seen a number of letters to the editor in Canadian newspaper about the Terri Schiavo case that advocate active euthanasia for persons in a permanent vegetative state. That is, instead of interrupting her food supply, and allowing her to die over about a two week period by dehydration, they advocate that she be directly killed, perhaps through the administration of the medications that are used to execute convicted murderers on death row. They suggest that it would be a more humane method of dying which would involve essentially no suffering. We have not seen this point of view expressed extensively in the American media. One exception is Kate Adamson who spent 70 days in a coma and has since fully recovered except from some paralysis on her left side. She suggested: "If they want to kill Terri they should have the guts to put a gun to her head rather than condemn her to such a slow and painful death." 4

An informal Internet poll on CBS News suggests that two out of three Internet visitors favored allowing Terri Schiavo to die. Results on 2005-MAR-24 at 2 PM were 65.4% in favor and 34.57% opposed to letting her die. 5

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References used:

  1. "Terri Schiavo,", at: This is a temporary listing.
  2. Gail Gibson, "GOP maneuver in Schiavo case stirs controversy," The Baltimore Sun, 2005-MAR-19, at:
  3. "Federal Intervention in Schiavo Case Prompts Broad Public Disapproval," ABC News, 2005-MAR-21, at: **
  4. Wesley J. Smith, "When did now one eats become the criteria for issuing a death warrant?, " ToTheSource, 2005-MAR-23.
  5. Pop Question, CBS News, at:
  6. "The Terri Schaivo Case: CBS News Poll," at: **
  7. Susan Page, "Survey reveals affection, respect for John Paul," USA Today, 2005-APR-3, at:

** This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

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Copyright 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAR-21
Latest update: 2005-APR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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