New research: Majority of disabled people fear change to assisted suicide law

Most disabled people are concerned about a change in the law on assisted suicide, with many fearing that it could lead to disabled people being pressured into ending their lives prematurely, according to a new poll[1]. 
 
The survey, commissioned by disability charity Scope, shows that the majority of disabled people – including three-quarters (72%) of young disabled people[2] – are concerned about moves to legalise assisted suicide. 
 
Scope commissioned the poll ahead of a debate about Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords today. 
 
It reveals that nearly twice as many disabled people would be concerned by a change in law (64%), as those who would not (36%)[3]. 
 
Nearly two-thirds (62%) of those who are concerned about a change in the law said that they were worried that it would lead to pressure being place on disabled people to end their lives prematurely.
 
The majority (55%) of disabled people surveyed believe that the current ban on assisted suicide protects vulnerable people from pressure to end their lives. 
 
Scope has come out strongly against the legalisation of assisted suicide. 
 
The charity believes that a change in the law reinforces a view that it’s ‘better to be dead than be disabled’, and could lead to disabled people feeling under pressure to end their lives. 
 
The Bill being proposed claims to be ‘just for people with six months to live’ but Scope argues that this definition is vague and would include many disabled people, including those with long-term and degenerative conditions. 
 
In a joint letter to peers, Scope, Action on Elder Abuse, Mencap and the Veteran’s Association, have raised serious concerns about Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill and the impact that a change in law would have on disabled people and other vulnerable people.
 
The letter follows warnings earlier this week from Dutch euthanasia expert Professor Theo Boer, that legalising assisted suicide in Holland has been a slippery slope towards the widespread premature deaths of disabled, ill and older people.
 
The Prime Minister also restated his opposition to the change in the law during PMQ’s this week, saying he worried about “legalised euthanasia”. 
 
Richard Hawkes, CEO of disability charity Scope says:
 
“Many disabled people are really worried about a change in the law on assisted suicide. 
 
They are concerned that it will lead to disabled people, and other vulnerable people, feeling under pressure to end their lives. 
 
Why is it that when people who are not disabled want to commit suicide, we try to talk them out of it, but when a disabled person wants to commit suicide, we focus on how we can make that possible?
 
The campaign to legalise assisted suicide reinforces deep-seated beliefs that the lives of disabled people are not worth as much as other people’s. 
 
It's a view that is all too common.
 
The current law against assisted suicide works. It sends a powerful message countering the view that if you're disabled it's not worth being alive, and that you're a burden. 
 
Many disabled people strongly oppose a change in the law.”
 
The poll of 1,005 disabled people in the UK, which was conducted by Opinium Research, reveals that:
  • The majority of disabled people (64%) – including nearly three-quarters (72%) of young disabled people – are concerned about moves to legalise assisted suicide
  • Nearly two thirds (62%) of disabled people concerned about a change in the law worry that pressure would be put on disabled people to end their lives prematurely
  • The majority (55%) of disabled people are concerned that if assisted suicide was legalised in the UK, disabled people might choose it in order not to be a burden on family, friends, or caregivers
  • The majority of disabled people (55%) of disabled people believe that the current ban on assisted suicide protects vulnerable people from pressure to end their lives. 
 
The survey also explored the way that society views disabled people:
  • Two-thirds (65%) of those surveyed - and three-quarters (76%) of young disabled people - believe that disabled people are often seen by the public as a burden to society 
  • Three in five (59%) said that disabled people’s lives are generally not valued as much as other people’s 
  • Two-thirds (66%) said that people tend to assume that disabled people don’t have a good quality of life 
  • Three-quarters (76%) of 18 – 34 year olds have experienced someone explicitly making negative assumptions or comments about their quality of life, due to their disability

For interviews and background please contact Pasca Lane in the Scope press office on 0207 619 7201 or pasca.lane@scope.org.uk.

ENDS
 
 
[1] Opinium research conducted an online survey of 1,005 disabled UK adults aged 18 and over between 7th and 11th July 2014
[2] Disabled UK adults aged between 18 and 34
[3] These percentages were calculated from those who provided a response and excludes the 5% of respondents who selected ‘prefer not to say’

Notes to the editor:

Notes to editors
 
Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 1,005 UK disabled adults from the 7 to 11 of July 2014. www.opinium.co.uk
 

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