Nearly three quarters of the British public support a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying, polling reveals today.
Research by YouGov found that 74 per cent were in favour of examining the impact of the law as it stands and potential changes to legislation.
In the poll, assisted dying was defined as a terminally ill adult of sound mind legally seeking assistance to end their life via medication, with the approval of two doctors.
The results showed that 80 per cent of Conservative voters, 77 per cent of Labour voters and 79 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters supported an inquiry.
There was similarly strong support from both those who voted to remain and those who voted to leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum, at 80 per cent and 79 per cent respectively.
The polling was released before a debate on assisted dying in the House of Commons today. It will be the first time that MPs have debated the subject in more than two years.
The debate was secured after a petition lodged by Sarah Wootton, chief executive of the charity Dignity in Dying, received more than 155,000 signatures.
Wootton said: “The British public have secured this much-needed debate. More than 155,000 people from across the country have demanded that MPs give assisted dying the time and respect it deserves.
“Today’s polling further demonstrates that the public want to see concrete action to move this debate forward, away from a purely academic exercise to a proper examination of the harm and injustice caused by the current law and a discussion of how terminally ill people can be given the choice, compassion and protection they want and need.
“This is true of people from all walks of life, irrespective of which political party they support, whether leave or remain; assisted dying is an issue that unifies the public.”
She also called on MPs to “break the deadlock between the huge public support for change and parliament’s inaction”. She said: “Until it grasps this nettle, the blanket ban on assisted dying will continue to cause untold devastation to British families.
“Thousands of terminally ill people die in pain and suffering every year despite the best efforts of palliative care, with only a fortunate few with £10,000 able to access an assisted death overseas. Without a safe, legal option to die on their own terms at home, hundreds of terminally ill people every year are taking matters into their own hands using whatever means are at their disposal, forced to die alone or beg for compassionate but illegal help from loved ones.”
The British Medical Association has reaffirmed its neutral position on assisted dying, after an attempt by doctors to force it into opposition was thwarted.
Last year the BMA dropped its long-standing opposition to a change in the law after a debate at its annual representative meeting. It followed the biggest survey thus far of doctors on the issue, which found that 61 per cent disagreed that the association should remain opposed.
The BMA followed a number of UK healthcare bodies to adopt a neutral stance, including the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal Society of Medicine.
Campaigners against a change in legislation say that existing laws adequately protect vulnerable people. They claim it would be impossible to ensure that a patient’s wish to die was truly free from outside pressures.
In 2015 MPs rejected plans for a right-to-die law change for some terminally ill adults in England and Wales.