The puzzling trajectory of support for assisted suicide in the UK

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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