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As experts recommend Parliament addresses the issue of assisted dying, new poll finds majority of public want MPs to engage

Only one in ten would feel negatively about an MP who supported assisted dying law, while half would feel positively towards their MP in these circumstances

The expert panel which make up the Commission on Assisted Dying have today published their findings, following a twelve month consultation period which included public evidence hearings, research visits to jurisdictions which have legalised some form of assistance to die, written submissions and expert briefings. The aim of the report was to establish how an assisted dying law could work safely in England and Wales.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“There has not been such a comprehensive and robust evaluation of the evidence on this issue since the House of Lords Select Committee considered proposals for a change in the law in 2004, and this report is a valuable addition to the ongoing assisted dying debate. Dignity in Dying will take time to consider the recommendations the Commission has made, and hopes they will form the foundation of future legislative change. We commend the panel for the high quality of the report and the thorough consultation.

“Polling conducted a fortnight ago has found that a majority (61%) of the public would like Parliament to debate the issue of Britons travelling abroad for help to die, with only 12% opposed to such a debate. Polls consistently find that the public are dissatisfied with the current situation, which forces dying people who want help to end their suffering to travel abroad to die, or attempt to end their lives behind closed doors, and that 80% support a change in the law on assisted dying (BSAS 2007 and 2010). This issue remains high in the public consciousness, and the Commission’s report should prompt action in Parliament.

“Opponents to a change in the law will continue to attack any efforts to find a solution to the unbearable suffering which continues daily in the absence of a compassionate assisted dying law, but they themselves cannot suggest an alternative. Some who oppose change refused to give evidence to the Commission, but refusing to engage does not get us any closer to reducing the suffering of those who want more choice and control at the end of their lives. We are confident that the evidence and safeguards in this report will reassure those with genuine concerns about the impact of an assisted dying law on society, as the report highlights that such a law would better protect both those who do want more choice and control at the end of their lives, and those who may be vulnerable and need to be safeguarded.”

The Commission, Chaired by Lord Falconer and comprised of medical, legal and disability specialists as well as relevant experts from both Houses of Parliament found that the current legal situation which outlaws assisted dying is ‘inadequate, incoherent and should not continue. They found there is sufficient evidence to support the choice of assisted dying for people who are suffering in the last months of a terminal illness, if they satisfy a number of safeguards. The Commission’s proposed framework would allow a terminally ill person who satisfied the safeguards to be allowed to ask their GP to prescribe them life-ending medication. The dying adult would then choose to take the medication themselves if their suffering became unbearable for them.

This new polling found that 61% of those asked would be in favour of a parliamentary debate on the issue of Britons travelling abroad to Switzerland to be assisted to die. Just 12% of those asked were opposed to the idea. The same poll found just 10% would feel negatively about their MP if they were to vote in support of a change in the law to allow assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in Britain, while 49% would feel positively about their MP in that situation.


Notes to editor:

About the Poll

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2771 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 20th December 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

For a copy of the poll please email Jo Cartwright

About Dignity in Dying:

  • Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
  • Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

About the Commission on Assisted Dying:

For more information on the Commission’s findings go to:

Media Contacts:

For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at