Largest ever poll on assisted dying shows 82% of public support Lord Falconer’s proposed change in the law
Terminally ill people are calling on the next Government to give time for parliamentary debate in My Last Vote video;Poll finds 44% of people would break the current law and help a loved one to die; the penalty for doing so is a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
More than four out of five of the public support Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill to give terminally ill, mentally competent people the legal option of assistance to die with dignity, according to the largest ever poll on the issue released today.
The poll of 5,000 people by Populus also found that 53% of people would think more positively about an MP who supported assisted dying, while only 10% would think more negatively. Support for assisted dying is consistent, with over 75% support across the country, amongst supporters of all political parties, of all ages and socio-economic groups. For example, the survey showed 80% of Christians want to see assisted dying made legal.
To tie-in with the launch of the poll a new video called ‘My Last Vote’ features testimonies from four terminally ill people who want their last vote in a General Election to count towards a Parliament that will finally legislate on the issue of assisted dying. You can watch the video here:
79% of respondents agreed that after the general election the House of Commons should allocate time for a “full and comprehensive debate on the issue of assisted dying”. 40% of those asked had cared or witnessed the death of someone who was suffering unbearably at the end of life, of which 51% said they would break the law to help a loved one to die if they were terminally ill and suffering.
This is the largest ever poll of views on assisted dying and comes after extensive debate in the House of Lords where Peers voted by an almost 2:1 majority in favour of the Bill by defeating potential wrecking amendments in January, but the proposals ran out of time.
Lord Falconer has pledged to bring the Bill back in the next session and supporters of the Bill will be looking to use the public support demonstrated in this poll to advance the issue in the Commons.
The poll asked – using the exact wording of the Bill debated in the House of Lords - whether or not people would agree with a law that allows a terminally ill, mentally competent person, with a prognosis of 6 months or less, to have assistance to die under stringent safeguards. 82% of respondents wanted to see assisted dying made legal, while only 12% would oppose such a change. Nearly half of all voters (47%) “strongly support” this proposal for legalising assisted dying, with just 6% saying they are “strongly opposed”.
The poll also asked which attributes, from a list of 20 (positive, negative neutral) words phrases, were most associated with MPs either backing or opposing assisted dying. MPs who backed a change in the law were identified as being “compassionate”, “caring”, “in-touch”, and “progressive” while MPs who stood against it were “lacking compassion”, “out of touch” and “backward-looking”.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:
“Politicians need to listen to the public who overwhelmingly support the proposals put forward by Lord Falconer, which seeks to give choice to dying people.
“With one Briton a fortnight travelling abroad to die, and a further 300 terminally ill people taking their own lives behind closed doors in the UK, it is imperative that Parliament no longer turns a blind eye to this issue or a deaf ear to the terminally ill people in My Last Vote who want politicians to give them choice at the end of life.”
Roch Maher is terminally ill with motor neurone disease. Roch said:
“It’s going to affect everybody at some stage but the people that it affects at the time will always be a minority and it is disappointing for me that it is not seen as an important issue for politicians to get behind. I am comforted that it has cross party support but the next parliament has to address this issue.
“I would like people, when they make decisions about the circumstances I am in, to try and step into my shoes.
“Assisted dying would be a great comfort. At the moment I have no control and face a future of deterioration but if I had the ability to bring that life to an end when it became intolerable, the anxiety about the end of my life would be taken away and I would be far happier, and those around me would be far happier too.”
Gill Sweeting was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in December 2014, one month after she attended a demonstration in support of the Assisted Dying Bill. Gill said:
“The prognosis that I was given was up to 6 months, of which I have had two and a bit.
“It’s far more sensible to do it in a controlled way than do it yourself which can go wrong and which is likely to be very messy, if you throw yourself under a train it mucks up a lot of people’s lives.
“I always thought that by the time I needed assisted dying it would be legal, but it isn’t.”