The University Record, February 7, 1994

Survey will solicit opinions on assisted suicide

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

What Michigan voters and physicians think about aid-in-dying will be the topic of a survey this spring by the Institute for Social Research (ISR).

The survey is funded by the Michigan Health Care Education and Research Foundation (MHCERF), the research and philanthropic affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). Approximately 2,000 adults and 500 physicians in Michigan will be asked their opinion on assisted suicide.

“We’re eager that the results be of use both to the Michigan Commission on Death and Dying and to the state Legislature as it grapples with new legislation on assisted suicide,” says Jerald Bachman, principal investigator of the study and program director and research scientist at ISR. “Since this issue has placed Michigan in the national spotlight, we’re sure the results of the survey will also be of interest to the entire country.”

The project is funded under MHCERF’s professional research program on quality, costs and access to health care.

Co-principal investigators are Kirsten Alcser, senior research associate, Survey Research Center; Richard Lichtenstein, associate professor of health services management and policy; and David Doukas, assistant professor, Department of Family Practice.

The study will use an “informed survey” approach, according to Bachman, providing background information on the topic and ample time for respondents to consider and discuss the issues.

“Despite the immense media coverage of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s actions, many voters and medical professionals have not received a carefully balanced overview of the wide range of issues involved in physician-assisted suicide,” Bachman notes.

“Most of the polls and surveys trying to measure public attitudes on this subject use a sort of ‘pop quiz’ approach, confronting respondents with multiple questions, little background information and no time in which to ponder the complex issues. By using an informed survey process, we hope to gain more accurate insight into how state voters and physicians feel about aid-in-dying after they have examined issues carefully.”

The results of the survey will be released to policy-makers and to the general public as soon as they are available.