Overwhelming majority support assisted dying, largest ever poll says

More than 10,000 people were asked if they support making it legal for a person to seek assisted dying in the UK, also known as assisted suicide, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports

An overwhelming majority of people in Britain support legalising assisted dying, according to the largest ever poll of public opinion.

Shared exclusively with ITV News, the poll conducted by Opinium on behalf of the organisation Dignity in Dying, a pro-assisted suicide group, shows a majority of support in every constituency of England, Scotland and Wales.

More than 10,000 people were asked if they support making it legal for a person to seek assisted dying in the UK, also known as assisted suicide.

A total of 75% of people said they did, with just 14% opposed.

The law currently prohibits anyone from helping a person to die by suicide in the UK.

The poll found a majority of support across all age groups, with most Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs also in favour of a change in the law.

Those of Muslim faith are the only demographic to oppose assisted suicide, reducing support in some constituencies with large Muslim populations.

The polling comes amid growing calls for a change in the law, following legalisation in a growing number of other countries.

Last year the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said he would support assisted dying if a bill was brought to the UK parliament.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also recently said that he would respect parliament’s decision if it chooses to legalise the practice.

Both leaders suggested a change would have to come about via a free vote on a private members’ bill, brought forward by a backbench MP.

The last time the House of Commons voted on assisted dying was in 2015, when it was defeated by two to one.

MSPs are currently considering a private members' bill in the Scottish parliament, while the Isle of Man voted last year to legalise assisted dying, meaning it will likely become the first place in the British isles to introduce it.

Assisted suicide is already legal in countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and several states in the USA.

There are growing calls for the UK to adopt a similar law, with the campaign group Dignity in Dying asking for assisted dying to be available to people with a terminal illness who have fewer than six months to live.

Nick Brown before he found out that he had cancer.

In Sussex we met Nick Brown, who was told in December that he has three months left to live.

He has a rare form of cancer, which has spread to much of his body, including most recently his brain.

His condition is likely to eventually paralyse him, and he would like the option of assisted dying before his illness reaches that stage.

"Really it's a case of waiting ... My condition is going to deteriorate, there is no question, and unfortunately I will become paralysed," Nick said.

"At this point we really know that I am at the end, and I know that physically I am at the end.

"I ended up washing on that floor, sat in a chair, naked, which is not very dignified. So for me, just to have an option of saying 'this is the point when I would really like to finish right now' ... I don't want to live that way myself," he said.

Nick Brown told ITV News he would be in favour of the UK introducing legislation that allows people to choose assisted dying

His wife Sacha said she wants there to be a way for him to die peacefully.

"Nobody wants to die losing their dignity, which is essentially what is going to happen to him and yeah, I'm really scared," she said.

"I'd much rather say goodbye and just accept that's going to happen. I am okay with that because I'd rather he doesn't suffer or lose his dignity.

"I would much rather that happens now than another month on of his decline."

His daughter Georgia told us she was originally opposed to assisted dying when Nick first raised it with his family.

But now she has changed her mind.

"I think it's so hard for people to understand until they've lived with someone or know someone close to them that goes through something like this," she said.

"Then it will make sense to you, because you don't want to see someone like that."

'I'd much rather say goodbye and just accept that's going to happen,' Nick Brown's wife, Sacha, told ITV News

She also said she would "would want to be together" with her dad in his last moments.

However, there is significant opposition to a change in the law among some doctors, religious groups and disability campaigners.

The British Medical Association (BMA) recently adopted a neutral stance on assisted dying, but last week consultant doctors within the BMA voted for a motion ensuring they would not be expected to be involved in assisted suicide in any way.

Dr David Randall is a renal consultant in London, who told us he’s concerned that vulnerable people could be pressured in to assisted suicide.

"It's part of my job as a doctor to address that and I really believe that's possible through the best palliative care."

Others argue against assisted dying on the basis that palliative care is now good enough to alleviate suffering without needing to end a person’s life prematurely.

Last month, the Health Select Committee in parliament produced a report stating, however, that assisted dying has not diminished the quality of palliative care in other countries, giving patients choice.

But other opposition remains, including from some disability rights campaigners and religious groups who worry that assisted dying will diminish the value of all lives.

For information, help and support about cancer visit: the NHS website, Cancer Research UK, or Macmillan Cancer Support.

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