Public engagement on assisted dying

Public dialogue

Current project

A public engagement project to explore people's views on assisted dying in England.

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Why are we looking at assisted dying?

There is a gap in qualitative evidence about public views in England towards assisted dying and the social, ethical, and practical issues it raises.

Most available data about public perspectives on assisted dying in England are based on opinion polls which often do not explore or capture the relevant complexities involved in the debate. When we engaged with experts across the UK Government and the health policy sector, we heard that quality evidence on public opinion would be a welcome contribution to informing the debate on assisted dying.

Will we be making any recommendations about the law on assisted dying?

No, we will not be publishing a Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCOB) opinion on assisted dying, or the ethics of assisted dying, as part of this project. Our focus is on supporting an informed public debate on the topic, and publishing the findings from our public engagement and survey work.

Why are we using the term ‘assisted dying’ (not ‘assisted suicide’, for example)?

There is no universally agreed terminology when discussing the debate on assisted dying. We refer to the definitions described in this Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology briefing note on assisted dying, which uses assisted dying as an umbrella term, including ‘assisted suicide’ (where the individual self-administers the lethal medication) and ‘euthanasia’ (where it is administered by a third party).

When will the findings be published?

In early 2024, we plan to publish a set of briefing materials that will include a range of tools to inform the surveys and Citizens’ Jury.

In summer 2024, we plan to publish an initial report that shares the recommendations from the Citizens’ Jury, including the results of the voting process and the key findings from jurors.

At the end of 2024, we plan to publish a final report that captures the survey and Citizens’ Jury findings as well as the project methodology, participant demographics, a summary of the evidence and speakers, and notes of how the jury reached their recommendations.

What methodologies are you using?

We have appointed Hopkins Van Mil who will be partnering with M.E.L Research and the Sortition Foundation to design, organise, and facilitate a three-stage process of public engagement and survey activities, including:

  • conducting a nationally representative quantitative survey of the English population to explore and capture current attitudes towards assisted dying;
  • using these initial survey results to inform the recruitment stratification criteria for a Citizens’ Jury;
  • a deliberative public engagement exercise to explore the views and deliberations of an informed Citizens’ Jury regarding:
    • the current law regarding assisted dying in England
    • the circumstances where assisted dying would or would not be permissible
    • the ethical, social, and practical considerations that the public considers important in forming their views and their deliberations;
  • conducting a second nationally representative quantitative survey of the English population to gather views on the recommendations and views made by the Citizens’ Jury.

How will you ensure that the surveys in this project are representative of a diverse group of people in England?

We have appointed specialists Hopkins Van Mil who will be partnering with M.E.L Research and the Sortition Foundation to design and facilitate the public engagement and survey activities. The delivery partners are responsible for designing a survey to provide statistical confidence that the findings represent the views of the English population.

What is a Citizens’ Jury?

A Citizens’ Jury is a form of deliberative ‘mini-public’ and is a tool for engaging citizens on a wide range of policy issues.

Citizens’ Juries consist of a small group of citizens randomly selected to deliberate on a particular issue and provide recommendations. They place members of the public at the heart of processes. They emphasise the importance of consensus, collective decision-making, and deliberation.

Inherent to the process are providing a range of perspectives and information so that jurors are fully informed and base their recommendations on evidence and solid reasoning. As a result, they can prove especially effective when addressing contentious issues, such as assisted dying, where knowledge is disputed and there may be significant ethical and social implications.

How is the project being funded?

Our public engagement project on assisted dying is funded by a grant from the AB Charitable Trust. The AB Charitable Trust will receive regular updates on progress of the project but will not be involved in how the project is designed and delivered, or its outputs.