This article appears in the May 2003 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly
Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide
Following the current debate in the media and the Houses of Parliament regarding the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia, The Opinion Research Business was asked by the Right to Life organisation to conduct a quantitative survey amongst a nationally representative sample of medical professionals in the UK. The aim of the survey was to find out the views of medical professionals on this topical issue.
Due to the highly sensitive nature of the subject matter, an internet survey was perceived as the most appropriate method of achieving the required interviews. As it is a self-completion method, it is totally confidential.
The survey was administered by Doctors.net.uk, the foremost medical internet company in the UK.
The survey was completed by 986 medical practitioners over a two week period, from March 26th to April 9th 2003.
A total of 9,000 doctors were approached over this period.
To ensure the representative nature of the survey, only doctors who had been intially selected at random by Doctors.net.uk could participate. We were assured that the 11% response rate was typical of this type of internet survey.
The sample was chosen to reflect the wide range of medical professionals, distributed as follows:
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The Majority are opposed in Principle to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
The survey reveals that the majority of doctors are not in favour of either euthanasia (61%) or assisted suicide (60%).
Only 22% of medical professional are in favour of euthansia and only 25% are in favour of assisted suicide.
A significant number (14% & 13%) were undecided, mainly because they were not directed involved in the decision-making process.
The Majority would not perform either Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide
Most doctors would refuse to perform either euthanasia (76%) or assisted suicide (74%) if they were made legal.
Only about a quarter of doctors would be prepared to perform euthanasia (23%) or assisted suicide (26%) if these action were made legal.
The groups which are least likely to perform euthanasia are those in palliative and geriatric medicine and oncologists.
No one in palliative care would be prepared to perform assisted suicide, nor would the vast majority of those in either internal general medicine or oncology.