The Hemlock Society membership: Comparisons between 1983 and 1995 surveys and the general population

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Family, Life Course, and Society | Sociology


While most Right to Die studies have examined the ethical and moral implications of assisted suicide, few have investigated the active membership of Right to Die organizations. Two studies, one in 1983 and one in 1995, have surveyed The Hemlock Society USA membership in an effort to identify those who are actively involved in the Right to Die social movement. This study compares the social demographic descriptors of members of the Hemlock Society at these two different points in time: from the 1983 survey to the California portion of the 1995 survey and between all three Hemlock samples and the General Social Survey. The most significant findings of this study demonstrate that the population of the Hemlock Society is increasing in religiosity and continues to be defined as a well-educated and healthy membership. The Hemlock Society membership over-represents the female population, those over 55 years of age, divorcees and widows/ widowers, atheists, and those who are well-educated compared to the general population. Additionally, Hemlock Society members appear to be healthy adults who are still living on their own as opposed to depending on their families for assistance. In other words, the Hemlock Society members constitute a unique and dynamic group of individuals.