Mercy killing still a hot button issue, but is it changing?

Updated: 2014-01-14 11:18

By Chen Jia (China Daily USA)

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As early as 2006, a Field Poll had shown that around 70 percent of Californians support giving the terminally ill an option of receiving life-ending medication.

"Generally speaking, Californians tend to be more open to allowing an individual to make a decision rather than having something prohibited through government fiat," the poll director Mark DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to a recent survey in China, around 70 percent of over 3,400 residents said they didn't object to euthanasia or could accept the idea as well.

Covering 34 cities across the country, the survey was conducted by the public opinion research center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University through a computer assisted telephone interview.

By August of 2013, morethan10,000Chinesehave registeredandsignedlivingwills though a website that calls for "choiceanddignity"-lettinglovedonesdiewithdignityratherthandraw outtheirsuffering.

Though research in ethics and public views do promote developments in this direction, active euthanasia and assisted suicide are still illegal in today's China and most states in the US.

According to the nonprofit website, the US federal government and all 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit euthanasia under general homicide laws. The federal government does not have assisted suicide laws. Those laws are generally handled at the state level in the country.

Four states have legalized physician-assisted suicide, including four legalized physician-assisted suicide via legislation and one state via court ruling, according to the website.

The other 46 states and Washington DC still consider "assisted suicide illegal", of which 39 states have laws prohibiting assisted suicide, while three states (AL, MA, and WV) and the District of Columbia prohibit assisted suicide by common law, it said.

The remaining four have no specific laws regarding assisted suicide, which may not recognize common law or are otherwise unclear on the legality of assisted suicide, it said.

As a derived word from Greek, voluntary euthanasiameans "good death", which refers to the practice of ending (or helping to end) a life in a painless manner, and keeping the dignity of a person who is terminally ill. It's also called mercy killing.

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(China Daily USA 01/14/2014 page2)

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