The majority of Britons are in favor of legalizing assisted suicide. This conclusion, the result of a vast opinion poll carried out over the summer, comes at a time when members of parliament are debating whether or not to proceed with the legalization of this practice.
The Ipsos polling institute questioned His Royal Majesty's subjects in July 2023 with the question, “do you think it should be legal for a doctor to help a patient aged eighteen and over, to end his life by prescribing medication for this purpose, a treatment that the patient can administer himself provided certain conditions are met?” 65% answered “yes,” 17% said “no,” 18% preferred not to answer.
The debate on assisted suicide and euthanasia was revived in Great Britain with the Rosemary Walker affair. Suffering from an incurable terminal cancer, this woman chose to go to Switzerland to end her life, because the law currently in force in the kingdom denies her this possibility. A “cruel” and “anachronistic” law according to her.
The figures from the survey conducted by Ipsos are also stable compared to 2022, the year during which another opinion survey was conducted on the same subject. It is on this work that British members of parliament base their decision on “the involvement of health professionals in the prescription of drugs intended to end the life of their patients who request it.”
If British citizens are in favor of legalizing euthanasia, the opinion of politicians is, so far, less clear-cut: a YouGov poll carried out in 2021 showed that only 35% of MPs in the United Kingdom were ready to open yet another Pandora's box by decriminalizing death by white gloves.
Activists opposed to any change in the law in this area warn of certain “excesses” that can be seen in Commonwealth countries that have crossed the Rubicon, such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. “The more people hear about what is really happening in other countries, the more they understand the danger of changing the law,” says Alistair Thompson, spokesperson for Care Not Killing, an anti-euthanasia association.
Following the results of the recent poll and the work in progress at Westminster, Helen Whately, British Minister of Health made the assurance that “the government will not go against Parliament if MPs voted in favor of a change of the legislative framework surrounding assisted suicide.” A way to clear customs and give carte blanche to MPs.
The last intervention of the Holy See on the subject of euthanasia dates from 2020. At the time, in the letter Samaritanus Bonus, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – which has since become the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith – recalled once again that euthanasia is indeed a “crime” and a “bad act in all circumstances.”