Majority would support more compassionate euthanasia legislation

March 05, 2010, 2:15 AM GMT+0

There is substantial public support for legalising assisted suicide in some form, a recent poll conducted on behalf of the Daily Telegraph suggests.

The survey found that a large majority (75%) of the British population think that legislation on euthanasia should be amended to allow some degree of assisted suicide. Just over two thirds (67%) think that doctors in particular should have the legal power to end the life of a terminally ill patient who has personally given a clear indication of wanting to die.

Taken to trial

This comes as the Director of Public Prosecutions in the United Kingdom, Keir Starmer, defended both the trial and recent acquittal of Kay Gilderdale, mother of the late Lynn Gilderdale. Lynn was a long-time sufferer of ME, and having had the chronic fatigue syndrome since the age of 14, she persuaded her mother to end her life out of compassion.

Starmer claimed that it was in the “public interest” to bring the Gilderdale case to court, despite controversially declaring in September of last year that under certain circumstances, those assisting suicide will not be prosecuted. At the time, Starmer was heavily criticized by many areas of the public, including several pro-life lobbies, for his explicit statement that in certain cases, the flouting of assisted suicide laws would go unpunished.

Change in public opinion

However, in the wake of Gilderdale’s trial, it seems public opinion is turning. Starmer has been heavily criticized for his decision to take the case to court at all, and 82% now agree that his concession to the Gilderdale case in September suggests a humane and sensible attitude towards assisted suicide – in contrast to the earlier case of Frances Inglis, who is serving life for ending the life of her brain damaged son.

Indeed, that three quarters of the public would support a change to euthanasia legislation suggests that most think a more compassionate approach should be embedded in the law.

Related story - Support grows for 'right to die'

For full survey and results, please click here