The University Record, November 9, 1998

DAS to focus on assisted suicide

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

U-M researchers will be asking Detroit area residents what they think, feel and believe about life-and-death decisions as part of a yearly study conducted for nearly half a century by U-M faculty and students. An annual survey of households and businesses in the three-county Detroit metropolitan area, the study serves as both a faculty research project and hands-on vehicle for students learning state-of-the-art survey methods.

The Detroit Area Study (DAS) is sponsored jointly by LS&A, the Department of Sociology, and the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research (ISR).

“Over the past three decades, decisions about limiting life-saving treatment and physician-assisted suicide, once made privately by doctors and patients, have increasingly been the center of professional debates, legal battles and public controversies,” says Renee Anspach, professor of sociology and this year’s DAS faculty investigator.

“Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, Baby Doe and Dr. Jack Kevorkian all represent critical moments in a growing national debate. While we already know much about the views of ethicists, legal analysts and other commentators, we still have much to learn about the views of ordinary people who encounter the problem.”

The topic of the DAS study changes every year, according to director Willard L. Rodgers, a senior research scientist at ISR. In the 1999–2000 study, faculty investigators Vincent Hutchings, Michael Traugott and Nicholas Valentino will lead student researchers in examining the impact of political campaigns on how citizens learn about and evaluate candidates. In addition to standard survey contact, the researchers will bring video segments into the respondents’ homes through the use of laptop computers.

“Hundreds of political advertisements sponsored by candidates, parties and interest groups will expose voters to many competing political messages,” Traugott says. “This study will help us find out whether any of it matters on election day.”

Over the past 45 years, the DAS has provided data that have been the basis for some 20 scholarly books and nearly 400 journal articles.

The DAS is accepting proposals for the 2000–2001 study. For more information, call 764-4435.

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