British Nurses Want Assisted Suicide Legalized Poll Says, Conflicts With Survey

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 20, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Nurses Want Assisted Suicide Legalized Poll Says, Conflicts With Survey

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 20
, 2009

London, England ( — A new poll claims a majority of British nurses want the practice of assisted suicide legalized, however the results conflict with a survey conducted earlier this year. The new Independent Nurse survey says two-thirds of primary care nurses support legalizing the practice, but a British nursing web site showed few do.

Of 108 nurses who responded to the new survey, 64% said they thought assisted suicide should be legalized in England. Most said they would want limits and guidelines put in place if the practice is ever allowed.

Another 67 percent said they believed doctors should be able to engage in assisted suicide in cases when their patients are experiencing chronic pain from their condition.

Although a majority in the Independent Nurse survey back assisted suicide, just 46% of nurses polled said they would participate in one.

However, in January, leading British web site Nurses conducted a poll that found a majority of nurses in England joined Prime Minister Gordon Brown in opposing any bill to legalize assisted suicide.

The survey found only 20.9% of UK nurses think that assisted suicide should be legalized.

"With Nurses being on the front line of care here in the UK we wanted to get their opinion on this sensitive subject," stated Matt Farrah, a representative of the web site. "The results show overwhelmingly that nurses here in the UK would like the law to remain as it is and for assisted suicide to remain illegal."

The polls are important because the Royal College of Nursing is currently evaluating their members views. The deadline is May 22 for nurses to opine and the college’s council will eventually formulate a position on legalizing assisted suicide based on the information.

As previously reported, Brown said in an interview at the end of December that he would block any legislation to legalize assisted suicide and that British law should make “absolutely clear” that it recognizes the value of human life.

"I am totally against laws [allowing assisted suicide or euthanasia]," Brown said. "It is not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anyone else."

The Independent Nurse survey also found that nurses would not be willing to distribute the dangerous abortion drug that has killed more than a dozen women worldwide, including in England. Currently, only licensed physicians are currently allowed to disseminate them in Britain.

A total of 62% of nurses said that they were not prepared to give the abortion drug to women wanting it and 54 percent said they did not want to see the physician-only law changed.

Another 51 percent said they did not think drug-induced abortions should be available from family doctors offices and another 37 percent said they would not work in a doctors office where the drugs are distributed.

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