Public opposition to assisted suicide grows dramatically when people are more informed of the arguments, a new poll has revealed.
Figures show that many of those who initially express support for assisted suicide switch to opposing it when presented with evidence from places where the practice has been legalised.
The ComRes poll found that 28 per cent of British adults who had supported the proposals switched to opposition when informed that vulnerable people may feel pressurised to end their life so as not to be a ‘burden’.
One in five changed their minds when informed that there had been a steady annual increase of assisted suicide cases in countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland and also a widening of the net to include people with chronic but not terminal illnesses.
Overall opposition to assisted suicide rose from 12 per cent to 43 per cent as those surveyed considered increasing amounts of evidence about the nature of assisted suicide.
The poll was published by Christian charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education).
“We welcome the opportunity for debate on this issue”, said CARE’s Chief Executive, Nola Leach.
“Our new polling demonstrates that the public tend to be in favour until they are presented with the stark implications of legalising assisted suicide and the evidence of pressure on vulnerable people within those countries which have done so”, she said.
In response to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which was debated in the House of Lords earlier this month, Leach added: “We are confident that by discussing these issues the dangers posed by Lord Falconer’s Bill will be even more exposed”.
Dr Peter Saunders from the Care Not Killing alliance said that surveys on assisted suicide (AS) were complicated.
“Polls consistently show between 70% and 80% in support of AS. However, the issue is clearly far more complex than a simple ‘support’/’oppose’ question can do justice to.
“This polling strongly suggests that when offered evidence about the nature or source of opposition to AS, and some of the key arguments against it, this high level of support rapidly dwindles.”
“The most powerful argument in swaying the public was that changing the law would place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a burden on friends, family or caregivers, as has been the experience in the US states of Washington and Oregon”, he said.
“In short, support for AS looks to be extremely soft and generally uninformed”, Dr Saunders concluded.