European public acceptance of euthanasia: socio-demographic and cultural factors associated with the acceptance of euthanasia in 33 European countries

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Aug;63(3):743-56. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.01.026. Epub 2006 Mar 14.


In many European countries, the last decade has been marked by an increasing debate about the acceptability and regulation of euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions in medical practice. Growing public sensibility to a 'right to die' for terminally ill patients has been one of the main constituents of these debates. Within this context, we sought to describe and compare acceptance of euthanasia among the general public in 33 European countries. We used the European Values Study data of 1999-2000 with a total of 41125 respondents (63% response rate) in 33 European countries. The main outcome measure concerned the acceptance of euthanasia (defined as 'terminating the life of the incurably sick', rated on a scale from 1 to 10). Results showed that the acceptance of euthanasia tended to be high in some countries (e.g. the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Sweden), while a markedly low acceptance was found in others (e.g. Romania, Malta and Turkey). A multivariate ordinal regression showed that weaker religious belief was the most important factor associated with a higher acceptance; however, there were also socio-demographic differences: younger cohorts, people from non-manual social classes, and people with a higher educational level tended to have a higher acceptance of euthanasia. While religious belief, socio-demographic factors, and also moral values (i.e. the belief in the right to self-determination) could largely explain the differences between countries, our findings suggest that perceptions regarding euthanasia are probably also influenced by national traditions and history (e.g. Germany). Thus, we demonstrated clear cross-national differences with regard to the acceptance of euthanasia, which can serve as an important basis for further debate and research in the specific countries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Culture*
  • Demography*
  • Empirical Research
  • Europe
  • Euthanasia*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors