The British Social Attitudes Survey is being reported in UK papers today as “4 out of 5” and 80% of respondents feel that a doctor should be able to kill patients requesting to be killed and who are going to die anyway. The support for killing goes down if the patient is not likely to die soon of his disease or if a family member should kill the patient and for suicide with assistance from the physician.
The Guardian OnLine reports the story this way:
In a finding confirming that British public opinion is at odds with the law, today’s British Social Attitudes Survey reveals strong support for euthanasia, though only in carefully defined circumstances.
Research conducted for the survey indicates that backing for voluntary euthanasia depends strongly on whether someone is terminally ill, on levels of suffering and on how death occurs. There is much greater support for a doctor being permitted to end someone’s life rather than a relative, or than suicide assisted by a doctor.
Strongest support – from 80% – came for the suggestion that a doctor should “probably” or “definitely” be allowed by law to end the life, at the patient’s request, of an individual with an incurable or painful illness from which they will die, such as cancer.
Seventy-five per cent backed doctor-administered euthanasia for those with an incurable and terminal illness who say their suffering is unbearable.
However, public support for euthanasia drops dramatically for cases where an individual is not already facing death as a result of their condition. Where the patient has an “incurable and painful illness, from which they will not die”, 45% support assisted dying, while only 43% back euthanasia for those not in danger of death but permanently and completely dependent on relatives.
When questioned on a specific condition, public backing falls still further. Exactly a third of people said they would condone euthanasia for individuals with an incurable and painful but not terminal illness, such as severe arthritis.
From the (Scotland) Herald:
VOLUNTARY euthanasia for terminally ill patients is supported by eight out of 10 people in Britain, according to the latest survey of social attitudes.
Professor Sheila McLean, of Glasgow University, and a team of researchers from the National Centre for Social Research investigated attitudes towards assisted dying and found a large majority were in favour if doctors were in charge of the procedure.
The British Social Attitudes Survey found 80% supported voluntary euthanasia for “a person with an incurable and painful illness, from which they will die, for example someone dying of cancer”.
There is less public support in cases where a person will not die from their incurable illness, with only 45% found to be in favour.
A similar proportion supported the right to die for someone who is completely dependent on relatives for washing and feeding but not in pain or danger of death.
Euthanasia by a doctor attracted the most support – 80% – while physician-assisted suicide was supported by 60% and slightly less than half said relatives should be allowed to administer voluntary euthanasia. A link between religion and attitudes towards assisted death was found with support waning among regular worshippers.
Times Online coverage is not nearly as informative as either of the above sources, but it’s available here.
Each of the articles review recent attempts to legislate in favor of euthanasia and notorious cases that have been in the news.
Thanks to Matthew Eppinette, again.)