Legalising assisted dying would be safer, say majority of Brits in landmark poll | UK | News

March 11, 2024
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The majority of Brits believe that legalising assisted dying for terminally ill people who are nearing the end of their lives would be safer than the current ban, a landmark poll reveals.

More than 10,000 people shared their views in the largest ever survey of UK opinion on assisted dying, commissioned by campaign group Dignity in Dying.

It found 63 percent agreed that introducing a safeguarded system would be safer than the current law, which leads some desperate individuals to take their own lives in secret or travel to die abroad.

Just 11 percent feared that changing the law and removing the threat of prosecution would be less safe.

The survey results are further compelling evidence of strong public support for a more compassionate system.

READ MORE: France legalises assisted dying for adults suffering from ‘incurable illness’

Over the last two years, the Daily Express Give Us Our Last Rights crusade has shared countless stories of people who have suffered due to the cruel ban on assisted dying.

Together with Dignity in Dying and Dame Esther Rantzen, who has stage four lung cancer, we are calling for a full parliamentary debate and free vote for MPs. Our petition has soared to more than 150,000 signatures.

The poll findings, shared with the Daily Express ahead of a parliamentary event where supporters will gather on Monday evening, also revealed that 52 percent of people would consider going to Swiss assisted dying clinic Dignitas if they were terminally ill.

However, only 28 percent said they could afford the cost – estimated to be around £15,000. Sarah Wootton, Dignity in Dying chief executive, said the findings laid bare how “assisted dying sits behind a paywall”.

Writing in the Daily Express today, she says: “The current law is unsafe, it is unfair and it is unequal. As we look to the General Election, it’s becoming increasingly clear that assisted dying will be a key issue that voters want answers on.”

The price tag for travelling to Dignitas has soared by 50 percent in the past five years, according to campaigners.

People who travel there often die earlier than they would otherwise have chosen to, as they must be well enough to make the journey.

Kit Malthouse, Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, said: “I know constituents who have been fortunate enough to be able to afford an assisted death in Switzerland, but for most people that would be impossible.

“We shouldn’t have a system of ‘business class’ deaths for the wealthy and prevent dying people who aren’t as well-off from having the death they want.

“We need a law that gives choice to all terminally ill people in this country, not outsource our compassion to another country.”

Three quarters of those surveyed by Opinium had experienced the death of a loved one, such as a family member or close friend, within the last decade.

Of those, 43 percent said their loved one had suffered, while 38 percent said they had not. More than a quarter (27 percent) said they believed their loved one would have considered assisted dying, if it were legal, while 47 percent believed they would not have.

When questioned about the quality of end-of-life care received, just 16 percent said it was poor, while 42 percent rated it good and 30 percent adequate.

Dignity in Dying said this suggested that in the majority of cases where people had suffered, their pain could not be explained by poor or insufficient palliative care services.

Widower Steve Jetley is among those who have witnessed a loved one die in horrific circumstances under the current law.

His wife Tina – who shot to fame when she reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent with her dancing dog Chandi in 2010 – took an overdose while dying of cancer.

But she miscalculated the dose and suffered for hours before eventually dying. Having the option of an assisted death would have “made Tina feel so much stronger”, Steve said.

“She may now have chosen to take it but it would have given her strength and comfort to know it was there. If she’d had the proper drugs, she wouldn’t have suffered for 15 hours and had this awful, hideous death. It would have been dignified.”

Steve added: “People talk about ‘ending your life’. I feel strongly that Tina did not end her life, she ended her death.

“She was already dead, essentially. She just wanted to make it a little shorter and more comfortable.”



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