Sociology Professor Researches Euthanasia

Dr. Greg Weiss and student Lea Lupkin work together on the project

Dr. Greg Weiss of the sociology department has a very personal tie to a research project he's conducting for the College. The research involves determining the attitudes of college students regarding end-of-life treatment such as euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, which emerged out of Weiss' compassion and understanding regarding end-of-life treatment.

"I think that end-of-life treatment is an important issue for people. Many people are concerned about what their final weeks or months will be like," he says.

Weiss has taken an active role in helping people with this crucial transition. He and his wife, Janet Jonas, raised and involved a golden retriever, Lacy, until her death, in pet therapy with patients at Lewis-Gale Hospital and residence of Ridgewood Gardens Assisted Living Center. (Their new golden retriever, Emmy, is currently in training for pet therapy.) At those places and other, he has heard first hand the apprehension about the dying process that many patients and older persons have.

After talking to several groups in the community, including many retirees, Weiss says "I hear how important these questions are to them." He has also been influenced by personal experiences with family members and says that "although it's only one part of life, it's a very important part of life and I think it's important to know [others'] attitudes [about it]."

For this research project, Weiss has been continuously working with Lea Lupkin '09 of Coral Springs, Florida as a part of the College's Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. Each year, URAP pairs eight to ten incoming freshmen students with faculty members to work on research in various fields of study as part of an initiative to get first-year students involved in research.

Weiss says that although it's unusual for a freshman to be conducting research with a faculty member, it's "a wonderful innovation and to have an opportunity this exciting right from the start is very special."

The pair interviewed 200 freshman students in the fall of 2006 and will continue to interview them yearly through 2008 to see if their opinions on end-of-life treatment have changed since they've been in college. Some of the questions involve different end-of-life situations where Weiss and Lupkin look into various things that influence the students' attitudes toward the scenarios.

Out of this research, Weiss hopes to publish articles with Lupkin and present their findings at conferences such as one hosted by the American Sociological Association. Weiss typically attends two to three professional conferences each year and has taken students with him in the past.

"I think it'll be a wonderful credential for [Lea]," Weiss says in regards to Lupkin conducting research and attending conferences at such an early stage in her college career.

Weiss has been with Roanoke College since he got out of graduate school 31 years ago. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Wittenberg University and his master's degree and doctorate in sociology from Purdue University.

Weiss has taught courses in medical sociology, ethics and medicine, research methods and a senior symposium on Native Americans. Weiss was awarded the 2005 Hans O. Mauksch Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education and the 2004 TIAA-CREF's Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award.

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