By Natasha Egan
More than four in five Australian adults support reform of voluntary euthanasia laws and almost a quarter of would change their vote if their usual election candidate opposed reform, according to a poll commissioned by advocacy organization YourLastRight.com
The Newspoll run survey, which questioned over 2500 adults across Australia, also found that legalising voluntary euthanasia ranked third in importance among national policy issues.
YourLastRight.com CEO Neil Francis said the number of Australians supporting voluntary euthanasia has increased significantly since 2007.
“The overwhelming majority of voters have been in favour of legal assisted dying for the last 40 years,” he said in a statement.
Doctor assisted suicide
Source: Neil Francis, YourLastRight.com
Nationally, 82 per cent of respondents agreed a doctor should provide a lethal dose if requested by a “hopelessly ill patient, experiencing unrelievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering” while 13 per cent said disagreed.
The most support was in Victoria where 86 per cent of respondents supported it compared to 11 per cent who didn’t.
The least support came from Tasmania where 78 per cent gave their support to a doctor providing a lethal dose in that particular circumstance compared to 17 per cent who didn’t.
“It is important to demonstrate to our political representatives – and they are supposed to be our representatives – that continued blocking and stonewalling of responsible, properly-regulated assisted dying is flouting the active wishes of the overwhelming majority of their constituents,” Mr Francis said.
It’s a vote changer
Source: Neil Francis, YourLastRight.com
According to the poll, 23 per cent of Australians would change their vote if their usual election candidate opposed voluntary euthanasia law reform compared to 6 per cent who said they would change their vote if their usual election candidate advocated for it.
For a usual candidate who opposes reform, this sentiment was strongest amongst Greens voters (32 per cent) and weakest for Liberal/National party voters (15 per cent).
The reverse was also true for a usual candidate advocating voluntary euthanasia law reform with the feeling strongest for Liberal/National party voters (7 per cent) and weakest amongst Greens voters (4 per cent).
While politicians may have their own deeply held personal views and beliefs about assisted dying they have to recognise that they aren’t in office to represent themselves only, Mr Francis said.
“With Victorian, South Australian, and Federal elections stacking up before the end of next year, I would counsel thoughtful politicians and their leaders to take account of this research’s third major finding: that candidates who oppose this reform will lose many more votes than those that support it,” said Mr Francis.
Important policy issue
Source: Neil Francis, YourLastRight.com - positive percentages reflect respondents choosing 'very important' or 'somewhat important' and negative percentages reflect respondents choosing 'not very important' or 'not at all important'
Respondents were asked to rate whether eight national policy issues were very important, somewhat important, not very important, or not at all important to them personally.
On the issue of ‘whether voluntary euthanasia is legalised’, 80 per cent of respondents said it was either very important or somewhat important to them personally while 17 per cent said it was either not very important or not at all important.
The issue ranked third in importance overall behind a national disability insurance scheme and dealing with asylum seeker boat arrivals.
In order of personal importance, the issue of leagalising voluntary euthanasia was followed by policy relating to abortion, the death penalty, the national broadband network, a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme and same-sex marriage.
Voluntary euthanasia is not a part of palliative care
While having no specific comment on this particular poll, Palliative Care Australia (PCA) CEO Dr Yvonne Luxford, said there was a range of views in the Australian community about the ethical issue of the deliberate ending of life for a person living with a terminal condition.
“Much community interest in euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is sparked by a need for assurance that pain and suffering will be relieved and that individual end of life decisions will be respected,” she said in a PCA position statement.
PCA’s position is that euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are not part of palliative care practice.
“Informed discussion about euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is hindered by society’s failure to guarantee access to quality care at the end of life,” Dr Luxford said.
“Dying is a natural part of life, and declining or withdrawing aspects of treatment is acceptable if it aligns with the informed wishes of the patient. This does not constitute euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.”