Polls on euthanasia – Applying a blunt instrument to a sensitive subject


“These polls rely on one or two very simple questions and, on a sensitive issue such as euthanasia, give people very little time or information to consider the issue in depth,” said Dr John Kleinsman.

The director of the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre was commenting on a recent survey prepared for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand Inc by Horizon Research.

He said the recent Health Select Committee process is a much better indicator of people’s real position because it involves a far more deliberative process than answering a single question telephone survey.

“Of the more than 21,000 people who wrote into the Health Select Committee to express their views on euthanasia and assisted suicide, more than 77% were opposed.”

What did the poll reveal?

The Horizon Research poll found New Zealanders support medical practitioners assisting adults to die by majorities ranging from 66% to 75% in specified circumstances.

These include:

  • Where such a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years or over, who has end stage terminal disease (e.g. cancer) and irreversible unbearable suffering: 75% support
  • Where such a request has come from a mentally competent patient, 18 years and over, who has irreversible unbearable suffering which may not cause death in the immediate future (e.g. motor neurone disease or some other degenerative or irreversible condition): 66% support

“The level of overall support shown in this poll falls within the broad range of many such polls conducted over the recent years,” said Kleinsman.

Polls do not allow people to engage in the complexities

Kleinsman said said polls like this one do nothing to help people engage with the complexities of this issue and they are not at all productive in helping us to have a robust and better informed debate.

“The key issue for MP’s and policy makers is less about the overall number of people who might support it and much more about whether such a regime can be implemented safely.”

He said other research around the world has shown that the more people become aware of the complexity and risks associated with euthanasia, the less likely they are to support it.

 There has never been a more dangerous time

“I maintain that there has never been a more dangerous time to introduce euthanasia or assisted suicide in New Zealand,” said Kleinsman.

He pointed out that New Zealand is currently in the middle of Elder Abuse Awareness week.

“And this is a serious issue for us in New Zealand, one that is increasing in magnitude despite our best efforts to bring the numbers down.”

“Add to that last week’s OECD Report which shows that we have the highest rates of youth suicide in the OECD, more than twice that of the United States and almost twice that of Australia.”

“This is not the time to send a contradictory message about the acceptability of suicide.”


For more information contact:
027 846 7489

Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , , , ,