New poll shows strong public support for assisted dying

7 September, 2012

Today – the day that Tony Nicklinson would have been lodging his appeal against the High Court’s decision that he was not allowed to have a doctor lawfully end his life – new research has been published showing massive public support for the change in the law he was pursuing to be made.

81% of UK adults in research conducted by YouGov support the notion of mentally competent individuals with incurable or terminal diseases who wish to end their lives receiving medical assistance to do so, without those assisting them facing prosecution. This included support from 82% of Anglicans and 66% of Roman Catholics. It is the strongest expression yet of public support for the legalisation of assistance not just for the terminally ill, but for those in positions such as Tony’s.

Campaigners are now calling for government to legislate on this issue, given the enormous public support for legalisation, and have called on new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to bring forward plans to meet the public demand.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented ‘Previous and forthcoming political attempts to legalise assisted dying have confined themselves to the terminally ill but today’s research confirms that this approach is well out of step with public opinion. The large majority of Britons, including Christians, believe that mentally competent adults who are permanently incapacitated and suffering unbearably, as well as those who are terminally ill, should be able to seek medical assistance to end their life with dignity.

Few principles of any sort have such a strong popular mandate and it can’t be right for the Government of a democratic society to remain silent and unresponsive in this matter. We urge them to introduce new legislation to legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, with safeguards to protect the vulnerable, but clearly respecting he choices of each individual.’

Jane Nicklinson, wife of Tony stated ‘Tony and I were amazed at the support he received. There are those who would tell you that he received many messages asking him to change his mind. This is not the case. The huge majority of messages were backing him in his decision. It was a constant source of comfort to Tony knowing that the majority of the public were behind him.’


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  The total sample size was 2061 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31th August – 3rd September 2012 .  The survey was carried out online.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.