Largest ever poll on assisted dying finds increase in support to 84% of Britons
Poll finds overwhelming majority of public across all parts of the country support assisted dying proposals. 52% of people would feel more positively towards their MP if they supported assisted dying, compared to just 6% who would feel more negatively.
The largest poll ever conducted on assisted dying has found that 84% of people in Great Britain support a change in the law. A survey of more than five thousand people from England, Wales and Scotland said they would support a change in the law to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death, provided they met strict upfront safeguards.
The poll, conducted by Populus, found that support for assisted dying has increased from 82% since their last survey in 2015, and that support is consistently strong across demographics including gender, age, social grade and region. There is even stronger support for assisted dying for terminally ill people amongst people who stated they had a disability, while there is broad support for assisted dying across most faith groups, including more than 82% support amongst Christians.
When asked whether they would feel more or less favourably towards an MP who was supportive of assisted dying, more than half of respondents said they would feel more positively, and only 6% said they would feel more negatively towards an MP who voted in support of law change on assisted dying.
The news comes just two weeks after the Royal College of Physicians decided to adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying following its own survey of members, and a week after New Jersey became the eighth state in the USA to permit choice at the end of life.
Noel Conway, 69, from Shropshire, has terminal motor neurone disease and recently brought a legal case challenging the blanket ban on assisted dying. He said:
“I do not want to die, but I am going to. I simply want to be able to decide when the time is right for me, and drift off peacefully at home with my family around me. If I lived in Toronto, California or Melbourne I would be able to. But here in the UK my only options are to suffer until the bitter end, to remove my ventilator and slowly suffocate, or to travel to Switzerland at huge financial and personal cost. This is downright cruel, and this latest poll has shown that people across the country, from all walks of life, will not stand for it. For MPs to continue to ignore the suffering of dying people like me and the views of their own constituents is a grave dereliction of duty. The law must change.”
Ann Whaley, 76, from Buckinghamshire, faced a criminal investigation after police were made aware of her plan to accompany her terminally ill husband Geoff, 80, to Dignitas in February 2019. Ann has requested a meeting with David Gauke, the Secretary of State for Justice, asking him to look into the problems the current law causes for dying people and their families. She said:
“My experience has only strengthened my firm belief that assisted dying must be made a legal option in this country. Geoff should not have had to spend over £11,000 or travel to a foreign land in order to fulfil his final wish to die on his own terms. I should not have been robbed of precious time with him or been made to feel like a criminal simply for standing by my husband of over 50 years. I am determined to honour Geoff’s memory by fighting for the law to be changed so that no other family has to endure what we did, and I am cheered to have the weight of public opinion behind me.”
Dignity in Dying’s Chief Executive Sarah Wootton said:
“This poll confirms that assisted dying has huge public support in the country, with five out of every six Brits wanting a change in the law. In these divided times, there is a cause that unites the vast majority of the country and that is seeking a more compassionate law for dying people.
“In polls over the last three decades, there has always been a consistent, strong majority of public support for assisted dying, but MPs have not reflected the views of their constituents on the subject. Voters for every political party, in every region of Britain and across all age groups want to bring our laws into line with other countries like Canada, the USA and Australia. It is crucial that MPs listen to the British people on this subject and ensure that dying people do not have to suffer against their wishes at the end of life.”