August 11, 2022

The puzzling trajectory of support for assisted suicide in the UK

Is it rising or falling?

Another poll in the United Kingdom and another dispute about how to interpret it. According to a press release from YouGov, “there is overwhelming public support for doctor-assisted suicide for patients suffering from a terminal illness, but … MPs are heavily divided on this issue.”

YouGov found that “73% of Britons support allowing doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill”. This showed, it claimed, that MPs were out of touch with their constituents, as only 35% felt the same. 

However, support for doctor-assisted suicide plummeted for those who are not terminally ill. Only 50% of respondents agreed that “someone suffering from a painful, incurable but NOT terminal illness” should be able to access doctor-assisted suicide.

Interestingly enough, while 73% is an impressive figure, support seems to have been even higher two years ago. Research commissioned in 2019 by the lobby group Dignity in Dying and conducted by Yonder found that 84% of the public supported “assisted dying for terminally ill people”.

The 84% statistic is the most prominent feature of the homepage of the Dignity in Dying website. Should it be changed to 73%? Is support rising or falling?

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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