NEWS ARTICLE

Majority of MPs personally favour legalising assisted dying, new poll reveals

A new survey has found that a majority of MPs (58%) personally believe assisted dying should be legalised, in at least some circumstances. It also found that nearly half of MPs (45%) would be willing to support a broader change in the law for those with Alzheimer’s disease. And MPs elected since 2019 are the most likely to favour reform. 

My Death, My Decision – who commissioned the poll and campaign to legalise assisted dying for people who are either terminally ill or incurably suffering – say the results show that the views of lawmakers are starting to catch up with public opinion.  

The YouGov survey asked 103 MPs about their personal views on whether assisted dying was correct in several different scenarios.

Unlike a recent survey – where 35% of MPs said they’d support assisted dying for the terminally ill but only 16% said they would for the incurably suffering – the latest poll specifically asked MPs whether they thought assisted dying was correct ‘irrespective of what you think has the best chances of becoming legislation’. 

The new survey also revealed that the strongest levels of support for assisted dying were amongst MPs elected since 2019. While 86% thought assisted dying was acceptable for those with six months to live, 69% also considered it acceptable in the broader case of someone with Alzheimer’s, in at least some circumstances. 

On 22 October, the House of Lords proposals to legalise assisted dying for those with six or fewer months left to live passed its second reading. The MDMD survey suggests that were these proposals debated in the House of Commons they would command a winning majority. As might a broader assisted dying law, if Parliamentarians could hear evidence from those countries that have taken that path.

My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

The law prohibiting assisted dying has been way out of step with public opinion for several decades. Since an overwhelming majority of people believe that those suffering from terminal or incurable conditions deserve a say over the manner and timing of their own death, it is only our elected lawmakers who are the stumbling block for reform. They need to catch up.

‘As Parliament prepares to debate assisted dying for the first time in nearly half a decade, this survey suggests that opinion may finally have changed. It would be disappointing if MPs were to restrict the right to die for those with six months left to live – ignoring the broader view of both the medical profession and the overwhelming majority of the public. With nearly half of all MPs personally favouring a broader change in the law, and support for assisted dying at its strongest amongst newly elected MPs, it is to be hoped that a better appreciation of the issues gleaned from Parliamentary debate would swing the pendulum in favour of such a law.’

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk or phone 07396694470.

YouGov Poll 

YouGov completed online interviews with a representative sample of 103 MPs. The survey was completed between 6 and 27 July 2021. Polling tables are available on request from keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk

MPs were asked ‘Irrespective of what you think has the best chances of becoming legislation, to what extent do you think it is acceptable for a doctor to assist a person to die in each of the following scenarios? In all cases, the person in question is mentally competent and has been approved by two doctors and an independent professional to ensure that they have made a free choice’. 

About Assisted Dying 

Helping someone to end their life is a criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years and is prohibited by s2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961

According to a 2019 poll from the National Centre for Social Research, commissioned by My Death, My Decision, up to 88% of the public favour legalising assisted dying for people with six or fewer months to live and for people with Alzheimer’s, in at least some circumstances. 

Assisted dying is permitted or will soon become permitted in Austria, Canada, Colombia, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, New Zealand, 11 jurisdictions in the United States of America, and 4 states in Australia. 

On September 14 2021, the BMA voted to end its long-standing opposition to assisted dying. This followed on from its members’ survey in 2020, where half of all doctors said they personally supported legalising assisted dying. Moreover, if the law were to change, 59% of doctors felt patients with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering should be eligible; whereas only 24% thought assisted dying should be restricted to those likely to die within the next six months. 

On 22 October Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying [HL] Bill will receive its second reading. This will be the first time Parliament has debated proposals to legalise assisted dying since Rob Marris’ private members’ bill in 2015. Under the prospective law, doctors will be allowed to prescribe lethal medication to patients with less than six months to live, subject to a range of safeguarding including the consent of a High Court judge.

About My Death, My Decision 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots not-for-profit campaign group, which advocates for a change in the law to allow those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering the option of a legal, safe, and compassionate assisted death. 

We were founded to represent the interests of those facing constant and unbearable suffering, at a time when no other right to die organisation would, and to advocate on their behalf to secure a lasting change in the law. We have quickly become one of the leading assisted dying organisations in England and Wales. We are advised by an expert medical group, are a founding member of the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, and are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow assisted dying for those who are incurably suffering or terminally ill.