Everyone knows Dear Abby. And in addition to Abby's role as America's premier advice giver, her column serves as a gauge - if not a catalyst at times _ of current American attitudes on a myriad of subjects.

A forum for hot topics of the day, "Dear Abby," written by Abigail Van Buren, addresses the needs of a wide variety of individuals confronting all sorts of the predicaments and difficult situations.

In recent months, her column has had phenomenal responses and she has received numerous honors from a diverse collection of individuals and causes:

_ She was honored with the Helen B. Taussig Medal from the Society for the Right to Die "for her vital contribution to the cause of patients' rights."

According to the society, Dear Abby has done more in the past 14 years than any single person in the country to alert individuals to their right to control their medical treatment at the end of life and to protect that right by means of a Living Will. Her columns on the Living Will have resulted in an extraordinary deluge of mail to the society _ 100,000 requests for Living Wills over a two-month period. (Honored in April 1988.)

_ Likewise, she has been instrumental in the registration of donors for the Living Bank.

In response to her April column, more than 15,000 donor forms have been sent out. Expressing his appreciation, the executive director of the Living Bank wrote, "I'm afraid our doors wouldn't be open today if it were not for your deep interest and support." Thousands have registered as a result of Abby's `convincing them to want to give the gift of life."' He continued: "I am amazed at the tremendous, caring response. The staff tried to prepare me, but it is just something I had to experience to believe."

Thanks to Dear Abby and the Salvation Army Missing Persons unit, a 65-year-old blind California woman was united with her oldest brother, whom she had never met. They visited with each other for two weeks, about which her husband related, "What can I say, words fail at times like that."

The National Association to Aid Fat Americans recently bestowed its highest honor, the Distinguished Achievement Award, to Dear Abby in recognition of her continued support of the organization and the rights and dignity of overweight individuals. She joins a notable roster of recipients including Nell Carter, Jim Davis, and Jane Brody and Jack Rosenthal of the New York Times. (Sept. 1988)

_ Her sexual infidelity survey (results published February, 1988), generated nearly a quarter of a million pieces of mail within three months. (The result: the faithfuls outnumbered the cheaters 3-to-1.)