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Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy$
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Nathaniel Persily, Jack Citrin, and Patrick J. Egan

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195329414

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329414.001.0001

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The Right to Die

The Right to Die

(p.267) 11 The Right to Die
Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy

Joshua A. Green

Matthew G. Jarvis

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines both the structure of public opinion on the right to die and how different framings of the issue affect that structure. In general, respondents are much more likely to support the right to die or assisted suicide when asked about a hypothetical case that involves a terminal illness or extreme pain, a painless method of “exit,” and consultation with family. Support for the right to die is considerably weaker among opponents of abortion, opponents of the death penalty, blacks, women, Republicans, and people scoring high on measures of religiosity. Rulings by the Supreme Court do not seem to have had any effect on Americans' attitudes toward end-of-life issues. Court cases at both the state and federal levels regarding right-to-die issues have contributed to impressive spikes in media attention that bring the controversy to the forefront of national debate.

Keywords:   right to die, euthanasia, assisted suicide, death penalty, abortion, end-of-life issues, Terri Schiavo, terminal illness, extreme pain

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