We have formed an independent Advisory Board and commissioned an expert contractor to help gain a better understanding of public views on assisted dying in England.
Over the next 12 months, we will be working with Hopkins Van Mil who will be partnering with M.E.L Research and the Sortition Foundation to design, facilitate, and organise a series of surveys and a Citizens’ Jury. Together, these activities will enable us to explore and best reflect how people living in England think and feel about assisted dying including the underlying ethical, social, and practical complexities.
Henrietta Hopkins, Director of Hopkins Van Mil, said:
A lack of in-depth qualitative evidence capturing the public’s views on the ethical complexities of assisted dying has repeatedly been cited in social and political discussions as a reason for not revisiting and reflecting on the current position. Given the sensitive nature of the subject, it is entirely appropriate to give space, in a Citizens’ Jury, framed by nationally representative surveys, to reflect meaningfully over time on what the key considerations are on whether assisted dying should be permitted in England or not.
Hopkins Van Mil is honoured to be working with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and our partners M.E.L Research and the Sortition Foundation on this significant and timely project. We look forward to engaging with diverse publics, supporting them to share their views, hopes, concerns over the next few months to inform future policy."
Many jurisdictions worldwide do not permit assisted dying, but there has been an increasing number considering or passing legislation to permit it in recent years. This has pushed the matter into the spotlight. Currently, at least 27 international jurisdictions have legalised assisted dying to some degree and further conversations are underway in Scotland to consider their approach.
We believe a better understanding of what the English public thinks and feels about the matter much needed in this debate. Especially as a lack of in-depth qualitative evidence capturing the public’s views on the ethical complexities of the topic has been repeatedly cited in political discussions as a reason for not discussing it further.
The topic of assisted dying is highly complex and one that induces a wide range of perspectives across different individuals and groups. Reaching a nuanced understanding of what underpins people’s views on assisted dying, to help inform decision-making at the highest level, requires robust, credible evidence to be collated that is representative of our citizen’s views. In addition, any new insights captured into what the public opinion is, need to be presented accurately and handled sensitively.
Our creation of an independent Advisory Board, which will be Chaired by Professor Anne Kerr, will provide us and Hopkins Van Mill with impartial, informed, advice and challenge on the project’s multi-method public engagement processes and planning. They will help to ensure the project is robust, rigorous, and maintains integrity. It will also help ensure the process of content and evidence selection, for the surveys and Citizens' Jury is balanced, accurate, and accessible.
Professor Anne Kerr, Member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Chair of the Assisted Dying Advisory Board said:
I am honoured to have been selected to Chair the Assisted Dying Advisory Board. There is a gap in qualitative data when it comes to understanding public views on assisted dying in particular the ethical complexities underpinning these views.
Together, the Board and I will ensure this important piece of work adheres to robust processes and appropriate governance. By having these checks and balances we can trust that the final report will accurately capture and reflect what people living in England feel about assisted dying, and this will give the evidence that is needed for a properly informed debate.”
During this work, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics will not take a position on assisted dying. Our focus is on generating a process with recommendations from the public which can contribute to real life decision making and support an informed public debate on the topic.
In October 2024, we will publish a final report that showcases the quantitative surveys results and the jury deliberations and final recommendations.
Rebecca Mussell, Associate Director of Policy and Research and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said:
As an independent body that is dedicated to examining ethical issues in bioscience and health, we are used to navigating emerging and evolving debates. We believe public views must inform the ethical analysis of questions that have the potential to impact us all. This is why we have a responsibility to explore topics like assisted dying, which we believe currently lack the much-needed detailed fresh insights into the public’s views.”