During these latest years, a series of dramatic events, last in chronological order Eluana Englaro’s case, and even numerous films (from Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby to Denys Arcand’s Les Invasions Barbares) have focussed public debate on the issues of euthanasia and of the so called “biological will”.
In the light of the most recent data collected by the Science and Society Monitor, the biological will appears to be a feasible option for a vast majority of Italians: over seven Italians out of ten are in favour of the possibility to give advance indications on the use of medical treatments, where the patient is not conscious, in a context of critical illness and without any hope of recovery.
This figure acquires even greater importance if we consider that religious orientations do not determine a significant difference in opinions: the consent reaches 71% amongst Catholics and 83% amongst non-believers. However, when considering the schooling level of the interviewees, wider differences emerge: the ones who possess low levels of education are less favourable to the adoption of the biological will (50%), while amongst those holding a university diploma or degree we register a wider consent (70% and 80%). Also age is a discriminating factor, as over eight youngsters out of ten are in favour, whereas amongst over-65s the percentage decreases to 56%.
Amongst the reasons for this propensity towards the biological will the right to individual choices prevails, together with an inclination, amid those with higher levels of education, to protect patients from therapeutic obstinacy. Those who declare themselves against the possibility to express one’s will about medical treatments, by contrast, justify their position ascribing only to God the decision-making authority on human life.
The complete set of data on the survey is available here.
Further information in Arzenton V. and Bucchi M. (2008), Italians and Science. First report on science, technology and public opinion in Italy, in Observa Science in Society, Annuario Scienza e Società 2008 (Science and Society Facts and Figures 2008), Ergon Edizioni.
The Science and Society Monitor is the first permanent research tool, established in 2003, that monitors the tendencies and trends in the Italian public opinion about research and technological innovation. Promoted by Observa – Science in Society with the support of Compagnia di San Paolo, the Monitor was created as an instrument that offers policy-maker, the media, research institutions and citizens a solid cognitive base, comparable at the international level and continuously updated, in order to foster an informed and constructive debate on the issues stemming from the relationship between science and society. It is conducted through CATI-method interviews on a sample of 1000 cases, representative of the Italian population over 15 years of age, under the scientific supervision of Massimiano Bucchi (University of Trento), Federico Neresini and Giuseppe Pellegrini (University of Padova) and under the management of Valeria Arzenton (Observa – Science in Society).
The survey was conducted by means of CATI-method telephone interviews with a sample of 996 subjects, stratified by gender, age, and geographical area of residence, and representing the Italian population aged 15 and over.
(Translation by Sara Pascoli)