Majority of Australians support assisted dying


By Mardi Chapman

5 Sep 2017

Yet another survey has confirmed that the general population largely supports voluntary assisted dying in the context of a terminal illness and unrelievable suffering.

The online poll, commissioned by Dying with Dignity NSW, found 73% of more than 1,000 responders answered in the affirmative to:

If someone with a terminal illness who is experiencing unrelievable suffering asks to die, should a doctor be allowed to assist them to die?

 Only 15% of responders did not agree while 12% were not sure.

The survey found support was highest in older people with 81% support from people over 55 years compared to 68% support from 18-34 year olds.

The survey also found the opinions of men and women were similar and broad support (70-80%) for assisted dying across the political spectrum.

Dying with Dignity NSW president Dr Sarah Edelman, a clinical psychologist, said the majority of Australians wanted a change in the law.

“This information should help to inform MPs who will be voting on voluntary assisted dying bills in the NSW and Victorian Parliament’s next month,” she said.

Dr Charles Douglas, from the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, told the limbic the polls have been fairly consistent for many years.

“There is nothing new there except in terms of advocacy: it just gives people who want to change the legislation the ability to say people support this.”

Dr Douglas, who teaches clinical ethics and health law, has previously published research on doctors’ attitudes to assisted dying.

“Doctors are probably a little less enthusiastic than the general population but have still proven to be marginally in favour in a number of surveys. It’s another question completely about being comfortable enough to want to be involved.”

He said even palliative care practitioners were by no means unanimously opposed to assisted dying.

“Most palliative care specialists don’t want to be involved in assisted death as it’s not what they trained to do.  But that doesn’t mean they are all philosophically opposed to legislative change.”

“It’s possible that palliative care as it is now practised would co-exist with assisted death, but the two options would be accessed by different people with different needs. There is evidence from around the world that only a very small proportion of terminally ill patients ultimately choose assisted death.”

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