Gender trumps religiosity in older Mexican Americans' views on physician-assisted suicide

Research Activities, February 2011, No. 366

Older Mexican-American men are more sympathetic to physician-assisted suicide (PAS) than are Mexican-American women or non-Hispanic white men the same age, according to a new study. The study was undertaken because of growing attention to PAS in discussions of end-of-life care, although the subject remains controversial. Other studies have been of younger people or of hospitalized/frail older people, or have included few Hispanics or Mexican-Americans.

In this study, Mexican Americans between 60 and 89 years old reported stronger agreement with legalizing PAS (52.7 percent) than non-Hispanic whites (33.7 percent). Mexican-American men were 2.6 times more likely to agree with PAS legalization than Mexican-American women. High religiosity was not a predictor of opposition to legalizing PAS among Mexican Americans. Among non-Hispanic whites, high religiosity was associated with a 16 percent lower likelihood of supporting PAS.

The researchers interviewed 100 adults between 60 and 89 years old who identified themselves as Mexican/Mexican American/Chicano and 108 who self-identified as Anglo/non-Hispanic white adults at four community-based outpatient health centers in San Antonio, Texas. Individuals were asked their degree of agreement (on a four-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree) with the statement, "The laws should allow physicians to assist senior citizens in committing suicide in cases where a person has been diagnosed with an incurable disease and is suffering from constant, persistent pain." The researchers used short exams to assess each person's cognitive performance, ability to function in daily life without help, and their religiosity and spirituality. They suggest that larger, more generalizable studies should be conducted to check whether the reported Mexican-American attitudes towards PAS were unique to San Antonio or reflected a general change in recent years. The study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS14064).

More details are in "Physician-assisted suicide attitudes of older Mexican-American and non-Hispanics white adults: Does ethnicity make a difference?" by David V. Espino, M.D., Lillianne Macias, B.A., Robert C. Wood, Dr.P.H., and others in the July 2010 Journal of the American Geriatric Society 58(7), pp. 1370-1375.

Current as of February 2011
Internet Citation: Gender trumps religiosity in older Mexican Americans' views on physician-assisted suicide: Research Activities, February 2011, No. 366. February 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.