Recently Young et al published a study that synthesizes the evidence on New Zealanders’ attitudes to euthanasia and ‘assisted dying’. Unfortunately this study omitted polls published after August 2017.
A subsequent Curia Market Research Poll of 894 respondents (November2017) found that New Zealanders confuse ‘assisted dying’ with end-of-life practices that are legal and available.
First, respondents were asked whether they supported ‘assisted dying’.
“It has been proposed that people with a terminal or irremediable condition should be allowed assistance to end their lives, also called assisted dying. To what extent do you support or oppose assisted dying?”
62% supported it, 22% opposed it, 11% were neutral and 6% were unsure.
Second, respondents were asked what they thought ‘assisted dying’ includes.
66% of respondents thought assisted dying includes the removal of life support.
Only 62% thought that ‘assisted dying’ includes receiving deadly drugs to swallow or self-administer.
Only 68% thought that ‘assisted dying’ includes receiving deadly drugs by injection.
The more strongly a person supported ‘assisted dying’, the more likely they were confused about what it includes.
Of those who strongly supported ‘assisted dying’:
- 85% thought it includes turning off life support
- 79% thought it includes ‘do not resuscitate’ (no CPR) requests
- 67% thought it includes the stopping of medical tests, treatments and surgeries.
Finally, respondents were told that the proposed bill includes only ‘assisted dying’ by deadly drugs.*
After hearing which practices the proposed Bill would be limited to, support for ‘assisted dying’ dropped from 62% to 55%, opposition rose from 22% to 26% and unsure/refuse responses rose from 6% to 11%.
“This groundbreaking poll challenges the validity of most other polls on the issue. It shows that support for euphemisms such as ‘assisted dying’, ‘aid in dying’ or ‘assistance to end their life’ should not be taken as support for a law change,” says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ.
*The End of Life Choice Bill proposes assisted dying by either of four “methods for the administration of a lethal dose of medication” (Section 15): (i) ingestion, triggered by the person; (ii) intravenous delivery, triggered by the person; (iii) ingestion through a tube; or (iv) injection.
The first two methods are commonly known as “assisted suicide” because the person who dies takes the final action that ends their life. The latter two are commonly known as “euthanasia” because the final action that ends the person’s life is taken by a person other than the person who dies. The Bill therefore includes both euthanasia and assisted suicide under the umbrella term “assisted dying”.