76% say a Bill allowing terminally ill adults the option of assisted dying should become law – and even a majority of Catholics say the law should be changed to allow assisted dying
Today arguments for the right to die are being heard by the highest court in the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court. Campaigners including the family of Tony Nicklinson, who refused food and died when his High Court battle was overruled this year, want the law changed so that terminally ill adults can be provided with life-ending medication.
Research for the Dignity in Dying charity from 2013 finds huge support for changing the law. Although a Bill that would do so has been postponed for debate until 2014, three quarters say the Bill should become law. Only 12% say it should not, while 13% don’t know.
Opposition to euthanasia has traditionally come from religious roots, with Catholicism in particular claiming that the commandment “You shall not kill” renders euthanasia morally wrong.
However a large survey of different religious denominations for the University of Lancaster finds that even the majority of Catholics say the law should be changed to allow assisted suicide.
Opposition does tend to be higher among the religious, though: while 81% of non-believers say the law should be changed only 26% of Muslims feel the same.
The four-day hearing in the Supreme Court, involving a panel of nine judges rather than the usual five, will centre around whether the law prohibiting assisted suicide is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, for denying those such as Nicklinson the right to choose when they die. The prior appeal for a change in the law in the High Court was rejected by judges, who said it is up to parliament to make changes addressing the ‘conscience of the nation’, rather than legal officials who should only apply the law as they find it.