Consistency and contrast effects in moral evaluation of euthanasia
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Description: Euthanasia is a highly controversial topic. One of the arguments against legalisation of euthanasia is that it would lead to an attitudinal slippery slope effect; that is, a shift in attitudes toward euthanasia even toward cases which were not legalised. The present study tested a possible mechanism which may lead to such shift in two experiments. Participants judged morality of euthanasia in two hypothetical scenarios describing patients requesting euthanasia. We found that participants who first evaluated a case of a non-terminally ill patient suffering from fatigue afterward considered euthanasia for a terminally ill patient suffering from pain more morally right than participants who evaluated euthanasia in the latter case first. Furthermore, we found that presenting the case of the patient suffering from fatigue before asking about attitudes toward legality of euthanasia led participants to oppose it more. The study suggests that public’s expressed attitudes toward legality of euthanasia might be easily influenced by a choice of illustrative examples. However, the change in attitudes predicted by the slippery slope effect was not observed.