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Is the Debate over Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Primarily Religious in Nature?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies reported on its website in the document "Physician-Assisted Suicide Survey," (accessed on Oct. 27, 2006):

"Religious identity correlates with attitudes toward the ethical status of assisting in suicide. Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Jews believe in the majority that it is unethical to assist, while Conservative, Reform and secular Jews say assistance is ethical."

Oct. 27, 2006 - Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies 



PRO (yes)

Compassion and Choices, the largest choice-in-dying organization in the United States, wrote in the "Frequently Asked Questions" portion of their website (accessed on Oct. 27, 2006):

"The primary opposition to the idea that terminally ill, mentally competent people should be able to choose to hasten death with medical assistance often comes from religious sources, primarily the Catholic hierarchy and, more recently, the right-to-life movement."

Oct. 27, 2006 - Compassion & Choices 



Gary Langer, Director of Polling at ABC News, wrote in his Mar. 19, 2002 article "Opposing Assisted Suicide: More Americans Don't Want Doctors to Help People Kill Themselves," published on the ABC website:

"When it's posed in broad strokes, 48 percent of Americans oppose legalizing assisted suicide, while 40 percent support it... >

A variety of factors inform these views, and religious belief is central among them. Non-Christians and people who profess no religion overwhelmingly support assisted suicide. But it's opposed by most Christians, who account for eight in 10 Americans, and especially by evangelical Christians, who oppose assisted suicide by a 2-1 margin."

Mar. 19, 2002 - Gary Langer 



Fran Moreland Johns, the author of Dying Unafraid, wrote in her Jan. 19, 2006 article "U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Oregon's Right-to-Die Law," that appeared on the website beliefnet.com:

"Oregon voters twice approved their law; opponents said it violated federal anti-drug statutes. Although the legal battle over the law has hinged on physicians' right to prescribe life-ending drugs which fall within the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the underlying fight has been between what one side sees as the dying individual's right to a humane and compassionate death and the other as interference with God's plan."

Jan. 19, 2006 - Fran Moreland Johns, MFA 



CON (no)

Kathleen Foley, MD, Professor in the Department of Neurology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and Herbert Hendin, MD, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, wrote in the introduction to their 2002 book, The Case against Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care:

"Many proponents of legalization maintain that opposition to legalization is fundmentally religious in nature and that secular objections are only a cloak for underlying moral convictions concerning the sanctity of life...

It is worth noting that such nonreligious organizations as the American Medical Association, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Hospital Association, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization are strongly opposed to legalization for reasons that are obviously medical and social."

2002 - Kathleen Foley, MD 
Herbert Hendin, MD 



The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide wrote in the "Frequently Asked Questions" portion of its website (accessed on Oct. 27, 2006):

"Right-to-die leaders have attempted for a long time to make it seem that anyone against euthanasia or assisted suicide is trying to impose his or her religion on others. But that’s not the case.

People on both sides of the euthanasia and assisted suicide controversies claim membership in religious denominations. There are also individuals on both sides who claim no religious affiliation at all. But it’s even more important to realize that these are not religious issues, nor should this be a religious debate.
The debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide is about public policy and the law...

In Washington state, where an attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide by voter initiative in 1991 failed, polls taken within days of the vote indicated that fewer than ten percent of those who opposed the measure had done so for religious reasons."

Oct. 27, 2006 - Patients Rights Council