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Home arrow Market Research Findings arrow Healthcare arrow U.S. Adults Favor Not Taking Additional Steps to Prolong the Lives of Patients
U.S. Adults Favor Not Taking Additional Steps to Prolong the Lives of Patients PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harris Interactive   
11 Apr 2005
By a Near Four-to-One Margin, U.S. Adults Favor Not Taking Additional Steps to Prolong the Lives of Patients in a Persistent Vegetative State
Only one-third of the public confident in doctors’ ability to accurately diagnose this persistent state

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – April 12, 2005 – More than four in 10 (44%) U.S. adults believe that additional steps should not be taken to prolong the lives of patients who have been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state unless the patient has specifically requested such care in a living will. This is nearly four times the number of people who believe that medical care and life support should always be provided (12%). Another 37 percent of adults feel patients themselves (via a living will) or their next of kin should be able to ask doctors to actively assist in ending a patient’s life rather than simply withdrawing treatment.

These are some of the results of a Harris Interactive? online survey of 2,290 U.S. adults conducted between April 1 and 5, 2005 for The Wall Street Journal Online’s Health Industry Edition.

The difficulty in making the decision to keep someone alive or allowing them to die may be in part due to people’s confidence in a doctor’s ability to accurately determine when someone is in a persistent vegetative state.

  • Only one-third (34%) of the public is very confident that doctors can accurately determine it as such while 36 percent say they are somewhat confident.
  • One-quarter (24%) of adults are not too confident or not at all confident that doctors can accurately make this determination.



While the courts had the final say in the Terri Schiavo case, an overwhelming majority (78%) of the public believes that if a patient has been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and there is no living will, the ultimate decision to keep them alive or allow them to die should lie with the patient’s next of kin. Very small percentages of the public believe others should have the final say. Those include:

  • the patient’s doctors (2%)
  • a religious leader or institution (1%)
  • the courts (1%)
  • and other family members (9%).
  • An additional nine percent are not sure.






"These results underscore the importance of living wills," stated Kinga Zapert, vice president of healthcare research at Harris Interactive. "Given the moral, legal and clinical complexities of determining a persistent vegetative state and its implications, the public appears willing to defer to the preferences of the patients themselves."

TABLE 1

CONFIDENCE IN DOCTORS’ ABILITY TO DIAGNOSE A PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE

"Based on what you know or have heard, how confident are you that doctors can accurately determine when a patient is in a persistent vegetative state such that he or she is permanently unconscious vs. someone for whom there is some hope of regaining consciousness?"

Base: All Adults


Total

?
%

Very confident

34

Somewhat confident

36

Not too confident

15

Not at all confident

8

Not sure

6

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 2

VIEWS ABOUT MEDICAL CARE FOR PATIENTS IN A PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE

"Which one of these statements do you agree with most?"

Base: All Adults

?
All Adults

Confidence in Doctors to Diagnose Vegetative State

Very/Somewhat Confident

Not Too/Not at All Confident

?
%

%

%

Patients who have been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state should be kept comfortable, but additional steps should not be taken to prolong their lives unless the patient has requested this in a living will.

44

49

34

Patients themselves (via a living will) or their next of kin should be able to ask their doctors to actively assist in ending a patient’s life rather than simply withdrawing treatment.

37

41

30

Patients who have been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state should receive the same level of medical care and life support that is provided to other seriously ill patients, no matter what.

12

6

28

Not sure

7

5

8

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 3

WHO SHOULD HAVE THE FINAL SAY ABOUT KEEPING A PATIENT ALIVE OR ALLOWING TO DIE?

"If a patient has been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and there is no living will stating the patient’s preferences, who should have the final say about keeping the patient alive or allowing them to die?"

Base: All Adults

?
All Adults

Confidence in Doctors to Diagnose Vegetative State

Very/Somewhat Confident

Not Too/Not at All Confident

?
%

%

%

The patient’s next of kin

78

83

67

The patient’s doctors

2

3

2

The patient’s religious leader or religious institution

1

*

3

The courts

1

1

*

Elected politicians

*

*

*

Other family members

9

8

14

Not sure

9

5

14

* Less than 0.5%.

Downloadable PDFs of Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Polls are posted at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/newsletters_wsj.asp.

Methodology
This poll was conducted online in the United States between April 1 and 5, 2005 among a nationwide cross section of 2,290 adults aged 18 and over. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income and region were weighted where necessary to align with population proportions. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. Sampling error for the following sub-sample results: adults who are very/somewhat confident (1,692) or not to/not at all confident (497) that doctors can accurately determine when a patient is in a persistent vegetative state is higher and varies. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. This includes refusals to be interviewed (nonresponse), question wording and question order, and weighting. It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors. This online sample was not a probability sample.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About the Survey
The Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll is an exclusive poll that is published in the award-winning Health Industry Edition of The Wall Street Journal Online at www.wsj.com/health.

About The Wall Street Journal Online
The Wall Street Journal Online at WSJ.com, published by Dow Jones & Company (NYSE: DJ; www.dowjones.com), offers authoritative analysis, breaking news and commentary from top industry journalists. Launched in 1996, the Online Journal is the largest paid subscription news site on the Web, with more than 689,000 subscribers world-wide. The Online Journal provides in-depth business news and financial information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with insight and analysis, including breaking business and technology news and analysis from around the world. It draws on the Dow Jones network of more than 1,500 reporters and editors -- the largest staff of business and financial journalists in the world. For the second consecutive year in 2003, the Online Journal received a WebAward for the "Best Newspaper Web Site" and was also cited by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine as the "Best Business News" site (2002 & 2001).

About Dow Jones & Company
In addition to The Wall Street Journal and its international and online editions, Dow Jones & Company (NYSE: DJ; dowjones.com) also publishes Barron's and the Far Eastern Economic Review, Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones Indexes and the Ottaway group of community newspapers. Dow Jones is co-owner with Reuters Group of Factiva, with Hearst of SmartMoney and with NBC of the CNBC television operations in Asia and Europe. Dow Jones also provides news content to CNBC and radio stations in the U.S.

About Harris Interactive?
Harris Interactive Inc. (www.harrisinteractive.com), the 15th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, is a Rochester, N.Y.-based global research company that blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application. Known for The Harris Poll? and for pioneering Internet-based research methods, Harris Interactive conducts proprietary and public research to help its clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.

Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital, databases and technology to advance market leadership through U.S. offices and wholly owned subsidiaries: London-based HI Europe (www.hieurope.com), Paris-based Novatris (www.novatris.com), Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan, through newly acquired WirthlinWorldwide, a Reston, Virginia-based research and consultancy firm ranked 25th largest in the world, and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies.
Last Updated ( 03 Aug 2005 )
 
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