Readers from 74 countries cast 2,356 votes, with 73% of voters based in the US. Of those who voted, 65% said that they opposed physician assisted suicide.
Numerous similar polls have been carried out over the years by different organisations, and it is inherently difficult to get a true picture of opinion – the selection of people who vote may not be a true representation of the wider population and, as the authors themselves admit, “online voting … is prone to bias and is likely not to be scientifically valid.”
The poll was conducted as part of a wider online debate initiated by the journal earlier this year, based around the hypothetical case of a 72-year-old man in Oregon who was receiving palliative care for metastatic pancreatic cancer and was contemplating physician-assisted suicide.
Over 200 comments were posted online as part of the debate, which is available to read as part of the open-access article.
While many arguments were put forward both for and against physician assisted suicide, commentators on both sides agreed on the importance of palliative care, including hospices, for helping terminally ill patients manage their symptoms, both physical and psychological.