Poll claims support for assisted suicide

A controversial new poll has been published claiming public support for legalising assisted suicide.

The YouGov poll conducted for the Sunday Times suggests a swing in attitudes toward assisted suicide.

The poll of 2,000 people was conducted a week after the televised broadcast of the assisted suicide of Craig Ewert in a clinic in Switzerland.

But the poll is open to strong criticism for using leading and emotive questions.

When asking people about Sky TV’s decision to broadcast an assisted suicide, a wordy question stressed the man’s terminal illness, his widow’s consent to the film, the legality of assisted suicide in Switzerland and said the film makers’ intention was to “increase awareness”.

But in its article the Sunday Times simply reported: “By two to one (61% to 27%) people said it was right to screen it.”

Following this question, people were then asked whether prosecutors were right or wrong not to prosecute the parents of a young British rugby player paralysed by injury who they assisted with suicide. A clear majority (85 per cent) thought it was right not to prosecute them.

Having asked these two emotive questions, people were then asked if they would “consider” assisted suicide for themselves if they were in a similar position, and whether they think the British law should be changed so that “friends and relatives” who assist in a suicide won’t risk prosecution.

Unsurprisingly, 61 per cent said they would consider assisted suicide themselves, and 69 per cent said the law should be changed.

Earlier this month the Government announced the law on assisted suicide is to be “simplified and modernised” as part of its legislative plans for the coming year.

Assisted suicide is currently illegal in the UK, and the British Medical Association want the law to remain in place.

Critics of assisted suicide say it is creeping euthanasia and will put pressure on the frightened, the depressed and the confused to end their lives prematurely.

Commenting earlier this month on the court case of Debbie Purdy, who wanted assurance her husband would not be prosecuted in assisting with her suicide abroad, Sir Ken MacDonald QC, said: “The danger always is that vulnerable people are encouraged to do something they would otherwise not do.”

In September Baroness Warnock prompted a storm of criticism when she suggested that elderly people with dementia have a duty to die, prompting fears that relaxation in the law may place vulnerable people at risk.

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