Wide support for euthanasia: poll

The vast majority of Australian adults support reform of voluntary euthanasia laws and the issue is a vote change, according to a new poll

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.”

Tags: dr-yvonne-luxford, euthanasia, neil-francis, newspoll, palliative-care-australia, pca, yourrights.com,

8 thoughts on “Wide support for euthanasia: poll

  1. Dying may be a natural part of life, but it can be a very traumatic end, even in palliative care. My father died of stomach cancer in one of the best palliative care facilities in Australia. He did not eat for the last six weeks of his life. Although he didn’t have severe pain, he suffered terribly. He had overwhelming weakness, agitation, oral thrush and no control over basic bodily functions. He was totally wretched. He asked repeatedly for help to die, but was denied that right. Because he didn’t have pain, he didn’t get morphine, so he was conscious of his deterioration. He suffered to the end, and now my sister and I live with that final memory of his life. Anyone who goes through this would not support the current system. People shouldn’t have to suffer at the end of life.

  2. Neil’s survey is all very nice, but the answers to those questions will understandably be more of an emotional knee-jerk reaction than anything else.

    Any change to the law needs to be well considered, hence the processes that are in place in parliaments. When you consider the scope for potential abuses (especially elder abuse), you can not possibly vote for what is essentially an exception to laws against murder.

    Besides, palliative care has the best drugs! 🙂

  3. “hopelessly ill patient, experiencing unrelievable suffering, with absolutely no chance of recovering” – in my eperience this is easily hypothesised but in reality, to define this the lines are incredibly blurry.

  4. Surveys can achieve any response if they frame the question right!
    There is no reason to suffer intractable pain
    Do people want pain relief and are afraid they they will not get it? Very different issue

  5. The knowledge that voluntary euthanasia is available should someone need it in the future not only provides comfort when someone is in their final stage of dying, but can also provide mental piece of mine for years. For decades. I had a serious cancer and neurological disease diagnosis 15 years ago when I was 31 and am left with horrific and untreatable symptoms. And I’m definately getting worse over time. I used to fear aging because I’m at a higher risk of cancer and dementia recurrence, as well as a stroke. But the knowledge that I won’t have to suffer horrifically in my dying stage if VE is legalised has given me such peace of mind …… for decades. Quite literally.

    But the politicians continue to ignore the majority of Australians that support the legalisation of VE. Aren’t they supposed to be acting for what WE want, not what they want?

  6. I have areas’ of my brain in a dementia state due to vascular tiny strokes… recently another degenerative dissabilitating diagnosis of spasmodic torticollis due to the deep part of my brain in cell death. I am 66yrs now diagnosed with two types of fementia t 62yrs…. Ishared with my father through his dementia and into his final days. Then my Uncle… dying in the same manner.

    It was such trauma for my sister and I. We claimed suicide of ourselves IF we had to endure such a death. Now I am faceds in it….

    Already DRs are trying to manage mySymptoms and with the troticollis also “hell” already. symptoms “without much success” of quaility of life. I strongly believe, as animals we should have the right to end our lives.. when no more can be done towards saving it or giving us back quaility of life….. One having to starve themselves or reguse liquid, etc All the given Pallative care provisons…. are cruel and unjust… Terminal and in the last stages of in the dying procewss…. Dr supervised Euthanasia IS the only compassionat option. Carol Cronk.. Praying… Euthanasia for us all who so want and expect it should be our human rights.

  7. From some of the responses here, there seems to be continued misunderstanding. Some important points:

    * Palliative Care Australia themselves acknowledge that not all intolerable suffering at the end of life can be relieved, even with the best care.

    * Not everyone wants to be drugged up at the end of life. Many drugs have very unpleasant side effects, too.

    * The empirical research published in the scientific literature shows clearly that in proper, regulated arrangements, the “slippery slope” does not occur. And there is plenty of scope for “abuse” to occur right now: it is already legal to refuse life-saving medical treatment (we don’t see suggestions that relatives will inappropriately influence in favour of that refusal), and it is legal to refuse food and fluids in order to die (which some will find dignified but others will abhor). All of that can occur without multiple medical opinions, a requirement to be well informed about what medicine and palliative care can offer, a requirement for clinicians to specifically consider the mental competence of the patient to make such decisions, formal requests in writing, a cooling off period, reporting of statistics to Parliament for policy oversight, and so on: a suite of checks and protections to be put in place under assisted dying law reform.

    * YourLastRight.com is transparent about its research and the methodology uses to collect data. Some researchers are not so transparent. The research was conducted by respected national pollster Newspoll under full professional standards. And, it can be noted that ALL research in recent times has found an overwhelming majority of Australians in favour of assisted dying law reform, including research sponsored by those opposed to it.

  8. There seem to have been no progress since Sarah Edelman commented eight years ago upon the barbaric death of her father, and the death of an aunt of mine more recently in not dissimilar circumstances. Rotting away in a nursing home, with serious sight and hearing disadvantages, and no bone left in her jaws to permit any useful dentistry, in her 90s this once vibrant and feisty woman told me on my visits to her that she prayed every night that she would not wake up in the morning, and asked me if I had any means of giving her something which would permanently end her perpetual misery, but unfortunately I had no means of assisting her to die with dignity. I could refer to many more similar cases where either the aged or folk with awful hindrances to a happy life are constantly blocked by refusals to what should be every person’s right.

    The only means of stopping MPs from interfering with the wishes of those who want to pass peacefully from this world is to force them to hold a referendum on VE. The present situation where enough politicians have forced several previous attempts to allow VE to fail is completely at odds with the principles of democracy, a system which demands that politicians are voted into power to carry out the will of the voters and not to stoop to the immorality of falsifying or dismissing procedures with would in fact be completely incongruous in a true democracy.

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