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Assisted Dying debate reopens as research reveals the extent of support for legalisation

13th May 2013

In the week when a new Assisted Dying Bill is being tabled in the House of Lords, new, independent research reveals that 77% of people in the UK think that assisted dying should be made legal.

It is currently an offence in England and Wales to encourage or assist a suicide or suicide attempt, but the new research, conducted by Benenden Health, clearly shows that the nation does not agree with the current law, with the majority believing a change will happen. 94% of those questioned believe assisted dying will eventually become legal, with 66% believing it will happen in their lifetime.

Commenting on the research, Paul Keenan, Head of Communications at Benenden Health said: “It was astonishing to see that 77% of people in the UK believe assisted dying should be made legal and this, along with the other findings, has revealed that the public has very strong opinions on the subject.”

The Benenden Health research also canvassed opinion on who should be eligible for assisted dying, if it became legal, with 32% of those questioned stating it should be for those with a severe disability that affects their quality of life. While 38% think assisted dying should only be allowed for those in a vegetative state, with no chance of improvement, and this figure rises to 53% in 16 – 24 year olds.

The fact that assisted dying is currently illegal does not seem to deter people, as 43% of those surveyed admit they would help a loved one to end their life if they were asked, despite it being illegal, with this figure rising to 54% among those in Bristol and 50% in Southampton. It appears males are more likely to help stop a loved one’s suffering, with 50% stating they would help, compared with 38% of women.

For some who are desperate to end their suffering, they see travelling to a country where assisted dying is legal as their only option and it seems many others would consider this. More than half of those questioned would travel to a country where assisted dying is legal, with 58% saying they would travel abroad to help a loved one end their life and 54% revealing they would ask a loved one to take them abroad.

Read the full assisted dying report.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton is a vocal campaigner and, as a founder of Not Dead Yet UK, is strongly against a change in the law and comments: “The debate promotes premature death as a choice, especially for people with severe disability or ‘terminal’ conditions. This choice agenda is false, because it will insidiously lead to less choice. The NHS is already failing to care for hundreds of thousands of patients who die each year. In the NHS ‘assisted dying’ would become the cheapest, quickest and simplest option.”

On the other side of the argument, Sir Terry Pratchett, a patron of ‘Dignity in Dying’, strongly favours a change in the law and commented: “I cannot see why the decision of whether to live or die is for anyone but the person facing the pain, suffering and indignity. I would campaign as fiercely for those who want to stick it out to the bitter end as I do for those who want the choice of assisted death – the key here is choice.”

View the full benhealth article featuring the debate between Baroness Campbell of Surbiton and Sir Terry Pratchett.

Benenden Health undertook this research to gauge opinion on a potential change in law ahead of the Bill being tabled. Lord Charles Falconer will be tabling an Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords on Wednesday 15 May, seeking to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill adults with less than six months to live. The research is also revealed on the eve of a ‘right to die’ Court of Appeal hearing, in which Paul Lamb has joined forces with the family of the late ‘right to die’ campaigner Tony Nicklinson as they challenge the High Court’s ruling against doctor-assisted death.

Paul Keenan concludes: “This is a very sensitive and emotive subject, and in light of the new Bill being introduced to seek to change the law, one that we feel needs discussing, so we wanted to help facilitate a debate on the subject.”

For more information on the campaign to support the legalisation of assisted dying, please visit www.dignityindying.org.uk and for details about the argument against the changes go to www.notdeadyetuk.org

Ends

The quotes from Baroness Campbell and Sir Terry Pratchett were originally published in the Spring issue of benhealth, Benenden Health’s health and wellbeing lifestyle magazine, which has an audited circulation of 359,823.

This research for Benenden Health was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 17/04/13 and 25/04/13 among a panel resulting in 2,042 respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

 

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