Chapter XXIX: the shaping of public opinion.

AuthorFenigsen, Richard
PositionOther People's Lives: Reflections on Medicine, Ethics, and Euthanasia

In Holland, the opinion polls conducted in the last three decades have shown an increasing acceptance of euthanasia by the public: in 1986, 76 to 77 percent of the respondents supported euthanasia (whether voluntary or involuntary), (538) in 2001 the percentage rose to 82. (539) The consolidation of the present overwhelming majority must be seen as a remarkable phenomenon in the very diversified Dutch society where so many religious denominations coexist and no less than eleven political parties compete in the elections.

One of the influences that has contributed to creating those exceptionally high percentages in favor of euthanasia was the way the polls were conducted. With social acceptance of euthanasia known to be on the rise, asking solely the positively construed questions of the type "Do you agree with ... ," as all the questionnaires did, was bound to elicit many quick and less than thoroughly considered affirmative answers. The results could be different had the questionnaires been drawn up in a way that would induce the respondents to consider both the pros and cons of euthanasia. (540)

The selective information supplied to the Dutch public was of utmost importance in shaping opinion on the issue of euthanasia. In the last thirty years a great number of books, monographs, official documents, press reports and scientific papers on the subject have been published in Holland, and symposia have been exceedingly frequent. Among those thousands of publications and telecasts a few were open-minded on the issue of euthanasia, most favored it, and discussed euthanasia as an established practice beyond any dispute. From 1982 to 1985, 166 items concerning euthanasia were published in a large circulation moderate Dutch daily, Brabants Dagblad; only two of these opposed euthanasia. Of the eleven existing TV corporations, only one telecasts programs allowing the opponents of euthanasia to explain their point of view. The Dutch opponents of euthanasia who wish to state their views in print do so in small bulletins read only by themselves or in little known periodicals. As a rule publishers reject manuscripts that oppose euthanasia. The very well researched critical history of the euthanasia movement written by Dr. Issac van der Sluis was rejected by eight publishers and finally printed by the author at his own expense. My book opposing euthanasia had been rejected by four publishers before Van Loghum Slaterus in Deventer decided to publish it...

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