Two-thirds of Britons favor legalizing assisted suicide ahead of possible law change
Archdiocese of San Antonio
A majority of Great Britons are in favor of making assisted suicide legal, a figure that comes as British political leaders are debating whether or not to move toward legalizing the practice throughout the Commonwealth.
The poll results come from the U.K. polling firm Ipsos, which queried British adults in July. Poll respondents were asked if they believed “it should be legal for a doctor to assist a patient aged 18 and over in ending their life by prescribing life-ending medication that the patient can take themselves if certain conditions are met.”
Sixty-eight percent of respondents said “yes.” Just 17% of respondents said “no,” while 18% were unsure.
The poll results, first reported by the Guardian, are roughly equivalent to a similar poll the firm administered last year in which British adults were asked if it should “be legal for a doctor to assist a terminally ill patient in ending their life by prescribing life-ending medication.” Sixty-nine percent of respondents said yes.
The steady figures come as the British Parliament considers the possible legalization of assisted suicide as activists push for the law change and critics warn against making doctor-assisted killing legal.
The U.K. Parliament has throughout 2023 been holding an “inquiry into assisted dying/assisted suicide,” one in which ministers have been exploring the possibility of legalizing what the governing body calls “the involvement of health care professionals in the provision of lethal drugs intended to end a patient’s life at their voluntary request.”
Members of Parliament (MPs) held several hearings from May through July in which a variety of experts and academics offered insight into suicide legalization. At present, under U.K. law, assisted suicide can be treated as either murder or manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.
British politicians overwhelmingly rejected an attempt at assisted suicide legalization in 2015. A YouGov poll in 2021 found that only 35% of MPs supported changing British law to allow doctors to “assist in the suicide of someone suffering from a terminal illness.”
Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been topics of debate in Europe and the U.S. for years.
The practice is legal in several European countries including Germany and Spain, while several other countries are debating it.
The Catholic Church has pronounced definitively against assisted dying, with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith declaring in 2020 that euthanasia is a “crime against human life” and an “intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance.”
In some countries, the status of the procedure appears to be in flux. A British man in July was found not guilty in a Cyprian court over smothering his terminally ill wife with a pillow after she begged for help in dying, even though assisted suicide is illegal there.
The court found that 75-year-old David Hunter committed manslaughter, not murder, when he “spontaneously” killed his wife as she suffered from blood cancer.
Several years ago, meanwhile, Irish citizen Gail O’Rorke was found not guilty of helping her friend commit suicide after the two were caught attempting to travel to a Swedish clinic to assist the latter in killing herself. Ireland is also currently debating the legalization of assisted suicide.