The Changing Climate for Reform
The object of this chapter is to examine the changing climate for reform with regard to active voluntary euthanasia. This involves consideration of a number of related issues: (i) public opinion which appears to be increasingly in support of the legalization of active voluntary euthanasia performed by doctors for terminally ill or incurable patients; (ii) the development of voluntary euthanasia organizations campaigning for the legalization of active voluntary euthanasia; and (iii) developments within the medical profession indicating growing support for the concept of active voluntary euthanasia. Although these areas of change are very much interrelated, for the purposes of exposition, it will be necessary to deal with them separately. This chapter is accordingly divided into three parts: part I dealing with opinion polls, part II dealing with the voluntary euthanasia movement, and part III tracing changes within the medical profession.
Although there have, over time, been some fluctuations in public opinion on the issue of active voluntary euthanasia, opinion polls undertaken in the various common law jurisdictions under consideration indicate growing public support in favour of its legalization.
In the United Kingdom, opinion polls on the subject of active voluntary euthanasia date back to the 1930s. During that decade, the issue of legalization of active voluntary euthanasia had been brought to public attention through the activities of the newly established Voluntary Euthanasia Society in London and the concerted attempts at legislative reform made in 1936.1 According to a Gallup Poll conducted in 1938, 62 per cent of those polled believed that 'those suffering from an incurable disease should be allowed the option, under proper medical safeguards, of voluntary death',____________________