Public acceptance of euthanasia: Western vs Eastern Europe

Euthanasia is often a matter of debate in Europe, with some countries like Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg decriminalizing it. The degree of public acceptance has been shown to vary across Europe in a survey of 1999. In this recently published study, researchers from Belgium (Joachim Cohen , Paul Van Landeghem, Nico Carpentier, Luc Deliens) investigate the current degree of public acceptance of euthanasia across Europe and to investigate what factors explain the differences observed.

In order to do so, the use data from the European Values Survey (2008) which was conducted in 47 countries and included 67,786 participants.

The authors report a relatively high acceptance in a small cluster of countries: The three countries were euthanasia is legal (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg) plus Denmark, France, Sweden and Spain. In a large part of Europe, however, public acceptance of euthanasia was relatively low to moderate.

There seems to be a tendency towards polarization in Europe, manifesting itself in most of Western Europe being more permissive and most of Eastern Europe being less permissive. Religious factors are important for this polarization; cultural, socioeconomic and health care-related factors, however, are also relevant.

The authors conclude that, considering this diversity, a pan-European debate on the issue of euthanasia might be difficult; debates and solutions on the national level seem to be more probable.









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