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.
August 2019 End of Life Choices, Jersey poll
MDMD are pleased that our Assisted Dying Coalition partners, End of Life Choices Jersey, chose to use the same questions as we used in the recent MDMD poll. They commissioned 4insight to run the poll with 1,420 Jersey inhabitants. The results are in line with the MDMD results for the UK and in some cases show slightly stronger support. The Jersey report can be read here.
March 2019 MDMD/ National Centre for Social Research Poll
The Guardian reported on a MDMD/ NatCen poll. It investigated the acceptability of various forms of assisted dying. 93% of respondents found assisted dying acceptable in at least some situations when the person was suffering from an incurable illness which would eventually kill them. This reduced to 88% when the additional restriction of the person being within 6 months of dying was added. 88% found it acceptable in at least some situations when the condition was not one which would eventually cause death. 88% found it acceptable when the person was suffering from early stage Alzheimer’s disease, provided that the assisted death was before the person lost the mental capacity to make a life ending decision. Full details on the opinion poll result can be found here, with technical information here.
Since its initial publication, a more detailed analysis of the poll results has been carried out, which sheds some light on those groups most opposed to a change in the law. Over the whole population, only 7–12% (across the four different scenarios) say that medically assisted dying is never acceptable. Looking at the more ‘vulnerable’ groups:
- 12—15% of people with a long-standing condition affecting their day-to-day life say that medically assisted dying is never acceptable across the four different scenarios.
- 11—20% of people of 70 or older say that medically assisted dying is never acceptable.
- 20—59% of Black or Asian British people say that medically assisted dying is never acceptable.
It would be interesting to carry out further surveys as to why there are disparities within these groups compared to the general population in order to understand their fears about assisted dying.
January 2018 YouGov poll in Scotland
The Times reports on a YouGov poll that shows that 75% of Scots back change to assisted suicide law
July 2017 British Social Attitudes Survey
In 2017 the annual British Social Attitudes Survey carried out by National Centre for Social Research included questions on euthanasia. Public support for euthanasia remained consistent with previous surveys dating back 30 years, with 78% saying the law should definitely or probably allow a doctor to end life of someone with an incurable and painful illness from which they will die. The full report can be found here.
This study looked at preferences for care towards the end of life when decision-making capacity may be impaired. MDMD comments can be found here.
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.
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.