Polling Shows Support for Changes to Assisted Dying Laws

Two MHKs have given their backing to re-examining the sensitive topic of assisted dying after polling that shows a majority of the Manx public support a change in the law.

The poll comes as Jersey’s citizen’s jury announces recommendation to change law on assisted dying on the island, an assisted dying bill is introduced in Scotland, and a private member’s bill is introduced in the House of Lords, meaning three jurisdictions across the British Isles will debate the issue this year

Commissioned by Dignity in Dying and conducted by Island Global Research, the polling shows that 87% of islanders support terminally ill, mentally competent adults being allowed choice of assisted death in final months.

A further 43% would consider travelling overseas for assisted death if terminally ill and particularly important in an election year, 75% feel that a change in the law is debated in the next political term.

In a press release from Dignity in Dying, Minister Dr Alex Allinson, said: ‘Last year I brought a motion on assisted dying to the Tynwald, which demonstrated significant appetite for further discussion in our parliament and wider community. It is now clear that the Manx people are unequivocally supportive of greater choice and autonomy at the end of life and want Tynwald to look again at prospective legislation. I wholeheartedly agree.’

Clare Barber MHK, who is also a nurse, added: ‘The importance of providing access to a good death cannot be overstated, and this includes enabling choices about death. For those with a terminal illness it is absolutely right that those choices are available to them, the appropriate safeguards are in place and bodily autonomy is placed front and centre.’

A survey of residents of Jersey and Guernsey also found strong support for a change in the law on assisted dying (90% and 84% respectively). The polling is released as a citizen’s jury in Jersey, which has examined evidence on the topic since March 2021, publishes its recommendations for a change in the law on the island to allow assisted dying as a choice for those terminally ill and unbearably suffering. As British Crown Dependencies, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey are each able to legislate on assisted dying independently from the rest of the British Isles. 

Meanwhile an assisted dying dill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Monday June 21) and a similar private members bill was introduced to the House of Lords last month, with its second reading expected in the autumn. In April the Health Secretary announced he had commissioned the Office for National Statistics to gather more data on the impact of the ban on assisted dying in England and Wales on terminally ill people who end their own lives at home and in Switzerland.

The largest ever poll of British doctors on assisted dying, conducted by the British Medical Association, results of which were released in October 2020, found overwhelming support for a change to the BMA’s current stance of opposition to an assisted dying law (61%), and that half of doctors personally support a change in the law (50%).

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said: ‘The Manx people have declared loud and clear that they want a safe, compassionate assisted dying law, as have citizens across the British Crown Dependencies and the UK. Momentum for change is building right across the British Isles, with three jurisdictions due to debate assisted dying this year. Law-makers on the Isle of Man must recognise what the public already know; that the current choices available to dying people are not sufficient, and that the time has come to pass a safeguarded assisted dying law for those who really need it.’

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Island Global Research Ltd. Total sample size was 2,801 adults (873 in Jersey, 1056 in Guernsey and 872 in the Isle of Man). Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 18th May 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 16+) living in the Crown Dependencies (i.e. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man).

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