Three-quarters of Britons support physician-assisted dying for terminally ill people, compared with one in three MPs, according to a poll.
New evidence of overwhelming public support for a change in the law comes as a private member’s assisted death bill awaits its second reading in the House of Lords.
Lady Meacher, who introduced the bill for its first reading in May, said her proposal was “an insurance policy against intolerable suffering.”
YouGov, which conducted the opinion poll, found that 73% of respondents think the law should be changed to allow doctors to assist in the suicide of someone who is terminally ill, including 74% of Conservative voters and 76% of Labor. But only 35% of the deputies agreed.
A change in the law was also supported to allow doctors to assist in the death of someone suffering from a painful and incurable but not terminal illness. Among the general public, 50% supported such a measure and 23% opposed it. Among the deputies, only 16% were in favor and 51% opposed.
Previous polls have shown that support for assisted dying is even higher. TO poll of nearly 5,700 Britons in 2019 found that 84% supported a change in the law.
Under the Suicide Act of 1961, it is illegal for someone to help another person take their own life. In 2015, MPs rejected a proposal to change the law and several legal challenges for terminally ill people have failed.
Noel Conway, who died in June after removing the ventilator with the support of his family and a local hospice, took his case to the supreme court but lost in 2018. He suffered from a motor neuron disease.
In April, Henry Marsh, one of the UK’s leading brain surgeons and bestselling author, called for an urgent investigation into assisted dying after revealing he had advanced prostate cancer. More than 50 deputies and colleagues supported his call.
Politicians have “shown a surprising lack of compassion by dodging this issue for too long and are inadvertently guilty of great cruelty,” Marsh said.
Several countries have legalized or are in the process of legalizing assisted suicide: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, New Zealand and Colombia. Several US states, including California and Oregon, and two Australian states have also enacted laws.
Before the Covid pandemic, an average of one Briton each week traveled to Switzerland to end their life, at an average cost of £ 10,000. Anyone in England and Wales who helps organize such a trip, or who accompanies the person, runs the risk of prosecution.
In Scotland, a third attempt to legalize assisted death was launched in June by Liam McArthur, a liberal Democrat MSP. A consultation on the subject is planned for the fall.
Under Meacher’s proposal, two independent doctors and a higher court judge would have to evaluate every request for assisted suicide. Meacher, who chairs the campaign group Dignity in Dying, said his bill was “modest in scope and yet its potential to transform all of our lives and deaths for the better is colossal.”
“This option would allow terminally ill and mentally competent people, whose suffering is beyond the scope of palliative care, to die well and on their own terms, if they so choose. And it would also provide invaluable comfort and control to many more who may never avail themselves of this option, but who would be comforted by the mere fact of its existence. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism