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Support for assisted suicide drops in England and Wales, according to poll from assisted suicide campaigners

New polling in England and Wales, commissioned and funded by assisted suicide lobby group, Dignity in Dying, shows there has been a drop in support for assisted suicide.

Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, commissioned two YouGov polls into assisted suicide in July this year, one in England and Wales and a second for Scotland. 

While their own 2019 polling indicated that 84% of the public in England and Wales were supportive of assisted suicide being made legal, Dignity in Dying’s most recent polling shows a drop in support to 78%. Strong support for a change in the law was only 39%.

The recent polling is over 10% higher than contemporaneous tracking also conducted by YouGov that reveals that support for assisted suicide is actually 67%. Consistent tracking since 2019 shows an average of 68% support for assisted suicide across Britain and that support for assisted suicide never surpasses 71%.

Dignity in Dying has been criticised for its approach to polling 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 term ‘assisted suicide’ is 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 counterarguments. A poll that was run only in Scotland showed similar results.

Assisted suicide misinformation

Earlier this month, the lobby group was caught spreading misinformation on TV when Jacky Davis, who sits on the board of Dignity in Dying, claimed that over 600 people a year from the UK end their lives at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

However, speaking before the Health and Social Care Committee, which held a series of oral evidence sessions on assisted suicide earlier this year, a representative of Dignitas, Silvan Luley, said that over the past 20 years, 540 people from the UK had ended their lives in the Dignitas clinic.

This means an average of 27 people from the UK end their lives by assisted suicide per year in the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Davis’ claim that 600 people from the UK end their lives by assisted suicide in Dignitas each year is a 2,100% exaggeration.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “As the reality of assisted suicide and euthanasia legislation becomes more widely known, it is no surprise the accuracy of these sorts of polls is questionable. 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 counterarguments to making assisted suicide legal, the results can also change dramatically”.

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