Article by Adele Horin in The Age newspaper:
Euthanasia wins 75% support
By Adele Horin
January 6, 2011
THREE out of four Australians believe voluntary euthanasia should be legal, according to a poll.
But despite levels of endorsement that have hovered between 75 and 85 per cent for many years, pro-euthanasia reformers admit to having been consistently outgunned by their opponents, resulting in five failed attempts to have legislation passed in two years.
The latest poll by the Australia Institute found 75 per cent of people agreed that, if someone with a terminal illness who is experiencing unrelievable suffering asks to die, a doctor should be allowed to assist them to die. Thirteen per cent did not agree and 12 per cent were not sure.
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As well, the poll revealed 65 per cent of people who identified as Christians were in agreement, as were 71 per cent of Coalition voters, 79 per cent of Labor voters, and 90 per cent of Green voters.
The deputy director of the Australia Institute, Josh Fear, said the high support among Christians was striking, as was the 73 per cent support from people aged 65 and over.
''If anyone in the community would have thought about it and had strong views, it would be people feeling their mortality,'' Mr Fear said. ''Support in the oldest age group was slightly less than average but still very much a majority.''
The poll of 1294 people was conducted online but drawn from a nationally representative sample. It found 18 to 24-year-olds, with 70 per cent support, had the highest level of ''not sure'' at 16 per cent while the 65-plus group had the lowest proportion of ''not sure'' at 7 per cent.
Euthanasia bills have been voted down in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and twice in South Australia since 2008. Federal Greens leader Bob Brown will introduce a bill to seek to overturn legislation that prevents the ACT and Northern Territory from legalising euthanasia. NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann plans to introduce a private members bill in her state parliament this year.
Ms Faehrmann said that despite wide public support she expected a repeat of the forceful campaigning by the Catholic Labor Right and the Catholic Church seen in other states.
''The proposed bill has so many safeguards that only a very small number of patients would be able to access it,'' she said.
''We know from Oregon's experience [that] the vast majority who access the law have no religion. People with strong religious views don't access it and shouldn't stop others from doing so.''
SA Greens MP Tammy Franks said the defeat of a bill last November followed a highly organised and well-resourced campaign by conservatives working together across party, religious, and even state lines.
''Until the voluntary euthanasia side is able to compete with such a highly organised campaign machine we are going to struggle to have the majority voice heard,'' she said.
WA Greens MP Robin Chapple, whose bill was defeated in September, said a well-orchestrated campaign that included a personal letter from the Catholic Archbishop to MPs had been influential.