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February 3, 1993

Euthanasia: Should the Public Decide?-Reply

Author Affiliations

Harvard School of Public Health Boston, Mass

JAMA. 1993;269(5):590-591. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500050068025

In Reply.  —Dr Shertz raises several important concerns about our article: (1) Is public opinion likely to influence future public policy on the controversial question of euthanasia? (2) In our society, is this appropriate? (3) Does the public understand the consequences of its preferences? (4) Did respondents understand the specific differences among the policy choices offered to them?Regarding the first issue, there exists a good deal of empirical research on this question. The results show that, under certain circumstances, public policy decisions are causally related to the direction of public opinion.1-3 This occurs when (1) the issue is a highly salient one to Americans; (2) high levels of public support for particular policy are sustained over a number of years; and (3) there are no strong institutional barriers to a policy's implementation.The movement to legalize euthanasia meets all three of these criteria. As presented in our article,