New VT poll on doctor-assisted suicide

by Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare

  • 67% of Vermonters DO NOT support Oregon-style doctor-assisted suicide legislation.

  • 68% of Vermonters DO believe an Oregon-style law would create at least three serious problems.

  • 60% of Vermonters DO NOT believe doctor-assisted suicide should be a legislative priority.

The Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare commissioned a poll on doctor-assisted suicide, conducted March 5 -7, 2013. The poll was conducted just after the Senate vote on S.77, when the issue was generating considerable news coverage.

Vermonters were asked whether they support: leaving Vermont law as it is; an Oregon-style law; or the compromise that removes a doctor’s liability if a terminally ill patient chose to take an overdose of a prescribed medication and died as a result.

Respondents were then asked whether they thought any of nine serious problems that could result from an Oregon-style law would or would not happen. After hearing the concerns of opponents of an Oregon-style law, participants were asked again what they support. Below are the before and after levels of support for the three options.

Level of support:




Leave Law As It Is

Compromise Position





Before Concerns










After Concerns












*Vermont Assisted Suicide Statewide Survey

Field Dates: March 5-7, 2013 ● Sample Size: 500 completed interviews Vermont ● Sampling Error:• Less than +/- 5.0%


Poll questions


Currently the Vermont State Legislature is debating a proposal to legalize Doctor-assisted suicide which is prohibited under Vermont law.  Three different positions have been advocated.  The first is to leave Vermont law as it is.  The second is to enact an Oregon-style law that allows a doctor to give a terminally ill person a prescription for lethal drugs to take their own life.  The third is a compromise that would simply remove a doctor’s liability if their terminally ill patient chose to take an overdose of a prescribed medication and died as a result.

Which of these three do you support: leave current Vermont law as it is, an Oregon-style law, or the compromise position?

Leave current VT law as it is                 31.5%

An Oregon-style law                                36.1%

Compromise position                             27.6%

Undecided                                                 4.8%               

• Possibilities •

A number of organizations including the Vermont Medical Society and disability rights groups are opposed to an Oregon-style doctor-prescribed suicide bill.  They fear that such a law would create serious problems.  For each of the following problems please tell me if you think the problem willhappen, probably will happen, probably will not happen, or will not happen. (A total of nine possibilities were presented; what follows are a sampling.)

Some insurance companies, trying to keep costs down, will deny or delay claims for treatment, instead steering patient to a cheaper, doctor-prescribed suicide option.

Will happen                                              14.5%

Probably will happen                              34.9%

Probably will not happen                       28.1%

Will not happen                                       16.2%

Undecided                                                 6.3%

Some family members, standing to gain financially, will encourage terminally ill patients to choose doctor-prescribed suicide

Will happen                                          16.3%

Probably will happen                          35.3%

Probably will not happen                   32.7%

Will not happen                                   11.7%

Undecided                                             4.0%

Some doctors will, on occasion, wrongly diagnose illnesses as terminal when they are not.

Will happen                                          16.6%

Probably will happen                          36.6%

Probably will not happen                   30.9%

Will not happen                                   12.9%

Undecided                                             3.0%

Some patients will request doctor-prescribed suicide so he or she won’t be a financial burden on his or her family or spouse.

Will happen                                          17.4%

Probably will happen                          45.7%

Probably will not happen                   24.7%

Will not happen                                   9.9%

Undecided                                             2.2%

If the legislature votes to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide, state government will become more involved in the doctor – patient relationship.

Will happen                                          19.8%

Probably will happen                          31.9%

Probably will not happen                   27.7%

Will not happen                                   17.0%

Undecided                                             3.6%

Some patients, who are already victims of some form of elder abuse, will be pressured into doctor-prescribed suicide without full, fair, and informed consent.

Will happen                                          13.7%

Probably will happen                          35.4%

Probably will not happen                   31.7%

Will not happen                                   16.4%

Undecided                                             2.8%

 Informed Ballot •

Now that you have heard some of the concern of opponents of assisted suicide, which of the three options do you now support: leaving currentVermont law as it is, an Oregon-style law, or the compromise position?

Leave current VT law as it is             35.7%

An Oregon-style law                            32.9%

Compromise position                         27.6%

Undecided                                             3.8%

• Legislative Priority •

Now let’s talk for a brief moment about priorities.      

Some [other] people believe that doctor-assisted suicide is an important issue, and should be a legislative priority for 2013.  Other [Some] people believe the legislature should be tackling much more important problems than doctor-prescribed suicide.

How about you?  Do you believe doctor-prescribed suicide should, or should not be a legislative priority for 2013?                                                                                

Should be a priority                             37.2%

Should not be a priority                      60.2%

Undecided                                             2.6%