MDMD sponsors occasional opinion polls, and monitor the results of other opinion polls on right-to-die issues.
While we recognise that opinion polls can be unreliable, numerous polls consistently show strong support for a change in the law to allow some form of assisted dying. The exact poll results vary according to the wording of the question asked, the degree of understanding of those polled, what information they have recently been presented with, the sample of people polled, and how the poll has been conducted.
It is often stated that over 80 per cent of the British public today support changing the law to allow a mentally competent, terminally-ill adult the option of assisted dying. This headline figure, while important, hides a range of opinions and poll results.
SOARS Poll March 2013
In March 2013, MDMD (at that time called SOARS) commissioned ICM Omnibus to carry out a poll. 1002 adults were contacted by telephone, asking whether people agreed with two statements:
“A mentally competent adult should be legally allowed to receive a doctor’s assistance to die in the event of terminal illnesss” and
“A mentally competent adult should be legally allowed to receive a doctor’s assistance to die in the event of elderly health problems”
This showed 78% were supportive in the case of terminal illness, reducing to 70% for “elderly health problems”. Full details of the poll are available here.
The questions were repeated in an on line survey of 2ooo people. The support in this survey was 71% and 60% respectively.
March 2016 Bristol Museum and Art Gallery Poll
In spring 2016 the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery exhibition “Death: Is it your right to choose?” ended with a short screen based form survey which visitors could optionally complete. In response to the statement “After seeing the exhibition, I think that the law in this country should allow assisted dying.” Almost 80% of respondents were in favour.
These polls do not give exact definitions of “terminal illness” (such as if there was a life expectancy of 6 months or less), “assisted dying”, nor what constitutes sufficient “elderly health problems”.
June 2015 Economist Survey
On 27th June 2015 the Economist published a survey comparing attitudes to doctor assisted suicide in 15 European countries. In the UK 70% believed “it should be allowed for adults who are of sound mind and have less than six months to live.” The report went on to assess support for doctor assisted dying for “non terminal patients with incurable conditions“. In the UK, 58% supported this in the case of unbearable physical suffering, with 37% supporting this for unbearable mental suffering.
Although there is discrepancy between different poll results, there is clearly strong support for some level of assisted dying legislation in the UK. Support declines the wider the applicability of the proposal. Why this is so, is an interesting area of discussion addressed by MDMD and this website. We will continue to monitor and publicise changing attitudes.