Tory members overwhelmingly support new law on assisted dying

Posted On: 
4th June 2019

A new poll of Conservative Party members finds overwhelming support for assisted dying proposals. By a margin of more than 3:1, members across the party want to see a change in the law, says Dignity in Dying. 

“Assisted dying has been hailed as the next great liberal reform. This poll clearly shows that there is great appetite for change in the Conservative Party and a new leader could make this the next popular, progressive cause for the country,” says Dignity in Dying Chief Executive, Sarah Wootton.
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A YouGov poll conducted on behalf of Dignity in Dying has found that 67% of Conservative Party members want to see a change in the law to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to choose the manner and timing of their own death. Just 20% oppose a change in the law, while 13% did not have a settled view either way.

Significantly, support for assisted dying proposals (modelled on the Assisted Dying Bills debated in Parliament in 2014 and 2015) was consistent whether those members voted remain or leave, were male or female, and across all age groups, social grades and regions. This is similar to the general public, where polls over the last three decades have shown a consistently high level of support for dying people to be given a choice at the end of life. A poll conducted by Populus earlier this year found that 84% of British people – and 86% of Conservative voters – supported law change.

The poll of Conservative members was conducted by YouGov, whose long-running polls are a trusted barometer of feeling amongst Tory grassroots activists. A recent YouGov poll of Conservative Party members found that while more members (59%) believed it was right to legislate for equal marriage, 31% thought it was the wrong decision.

The House of Lords debated proposals by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer in 2014-15, where Peers gave backing to the Bill at Second Reading and defeated opposition amendments to the legislation. In September 2015 the House of Commons rejected similar proposals put forward by Rob Marris MP. Since that debate in 2015, assisted dying has been legalised in California, Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey in the USA, nationwide in Canada and in Victoria, Australia. Proposals are under active consideration in New Zealand as well as several other US and Australian States.

Dignity in Dying has called for a new law that would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to ask their doctor to prescribe them with life-ending medication, but only after meeting strict safeguarding criteria. At present, there is a blanket ban on assisted dying in the UK and one Briton travels to Switzerland every eight days in order to die at organisations such as Dignitas.

Dignity in Dying’s Chief Executive Sarah Wootton said:

“The upcoming leadership contest in the Conservative Party will undoubtedly be dominated by the Brexit question, but that should not be the sole factor for party members to take into consideration when choosing the new Prime Minister. Just like the general public, most Tory members want to see a change in the law to allow assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

“In past years, Parliament has failed to listen to the public on assisted dying. Both David Cameron and Theresa May made clear their view that they oppose a change in the law. With a new generation of MPs coming forward to apply for the top job in the country, we hope they will listen not just to the British public but also study the evidence from the USA, Canada and Australia that assisted dying laws are safer, more compassionate and widely-supported in countries not so different to our own.

“Assisted dying has been hailed as the next great liberal reform. This poll clearly shows that there is great appetite for change in the Conservative Party and a new leader could make this the next popular, progressive cause for the country.”