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February 3, 1993

Euthanasia: Should the Public Decide?

Author Affiliations

Ebensburg, Pa

JAMA. 1993;269(5):590. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500050068024

To the Editor.  —I would like to point out some shortcomings in the article by Blendon et al1 that apparently shows public support for euthanasia.First, in reading the article, I myself became confused about the terms "euthanasia" and "end-of-life decisions." Both are commonly used for the removal of unwanted medical treatment and the direct killing of a patient by request of the patient or his/her family. Is it possible that those answering what was, after all, a telephone call, also became confused over the terminology?Second, the authors seem unaware of the limitations of opinion polls to make social policy.Barber2 observes that "surveys are designed to elicit immediate, impulsive, off the cuff and undeliberate responses to questions that probe feelings, desires and wants, but rarely ask for careful judgment or well grounded beliefs.... There is no common discourse, no political interaction, no rational constraint—just a blurting out