Majority believe assisted suicide should be legal


A MAJORITY of people (57 per cent) believe doctor-assisted suicide should be legalised for terminally ill patients who wish to end their own lives, according to an Irish Times/Behaviour & Attitudes social poll.

The results also show most people (55 per cent) see honesty, integrity and transparency as the most important values they would like to see among politicians.

Awareness of the effects of policies on the wellbeing of others ranked next (21 per cent), followed by respecting others’ rights, dignity and views (18 per cent). Preserving the environment ranked at a lowly 3 per cent.

The figures are contained in a poll on Sex, Sin and Society conducted on behalf of The Irish Timesby Behaviour & Attitudes.

The poll, conducted last month, involved a national representative sample of just over 1,000 people at 100 sampling points across the State.

Unemployment emerges as the issue of greatest political concern to people in Ireland today. The vast majority (83 per cent) rank it as one of the most important issues facing the State, followed by the financial crisis (77 per cent) and Government cutbacks (69 per cent).

In a sign of the turbulent economic times, more than twice as many people cite emigration (18 per cent) as an issue of major concern compared to immigration (7 per cent).

The poll also measures the views of people on social issues such as abortion. Almost half (49 per cent) of people say they would help a friend obtain an abortion abroad if they were asked to do so.

Just over a quarter would refuse and try to persuade her to have the baby (26 per cent), while another quarter (24 per cent) say they would take some other course of action.

When the figures are broken down by age, they show younger and middle-aged people are most likely to help. Just under 60 per cent of those aged under 45 would assist. This number falls dramatically among older people, with just 35 per cent of the over 55s saying they would help organise an abortion abroad.

There is a similar age gap on doctor-assisted suicide, with a majority of age groups in favour of legalising it. The only exception is among the over-65s, where more people are opposed to such a move.

When asked about the Constitution, a large majority agree that it needs to be changed. A total of 59 per cent say it “needs some amendment”, while a further 19 per cent say it is not fit for purpose.

Just 12 per cent say it has “stood the test of time well”.

On the issue of organ donation, most people (54 per cent) say they would agree to a “presumed consent” law regarding taking organs from deceased patients.