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Dignity in Dying’s poll shows drop in support for assisted suicide in Scotland

New polling commissioned and funded by assisted suicide pressure group, Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), shows that there has been a drop in support for assisted suicide in Scotland.

Dignity in Dying commissioned two YouGov polls into assisted suicide in July this year, one in Scotland and a second in England and Wales. While the full polling data for England and Wales has not yet been published, the Scottish polling has been, and it reveals that support for assisted suicide in Scotland has dropped.

Based on 2019 polling commissioned by Dignity in Dying, 87% of Scots previously supported assisted suicide being made legal, but Dignity in Dying’s recent polling shows this figure has dropped to 77% in Scotland. Significantly, among those polled, strong support for assisted suicide being made legal remains below 50%.

There is debate over whether there is actually widespread support for introducing assisted suicide to the United Kingdom.

Academics have been highly critical of the approach taken by Dignity in Dying with the polling that they have funded on assisted suicide, with two experts from the respected Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University saying that previous polling they commissioned on the issue was ‘skewed and ambiguous’. 

“Assisted suicide” vs “assisted dying”

Polling from overseas shows that when the words ‘assisted suicide’ are used in polls, the majority in favour of introducing assisted suicide falls, sometimes by up to 19%. 

Whether respondents to a poll are exposed to counterarguments to the introduction of assisted suicide also appears to have an impact on the percentages of respondents who state they support introducing assisted suicide. In one poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes, of people in England, Scotland and Wales, support for assisted suicide dropped from 73% to 43% when respondents were presented with counter-arguments. A poll that was run only in Scotland showed similar results.

Last year, the Liberal Democrat MSP, Liam McArthur, submitted a final proposal for a bill to make assisted suicide legal in Scotland. However, while the proposed bill has received backing from a number of MSPs, last month both the First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Health Secretary stated their opposition to a change in the law on assisted suicide.

After meeting with a disability advocacy group, Glasgow Disability Alliance, First Minister Humza Yousaf said that he felt “even less persuaded” that assisted suicide should be made legal in Scotland.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “These sorts of polls should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Academics have been highly critical of the approach taken by Dignity in Dying with the polling they have funded on assisted suicide. We know that when polling asks about “assisted suicide” as opposed to “assisted dying” the results can be very different. Furthermore, when respondents are offered counter-arguments to making assisted suicide legal, the results can also change dramatically”.

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