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Public acceptance of euthanasia in Europe: a survey study in 47 countries

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International Journal of Public Health



In recent years, the European euthanasia debate has become more intense, and the practice was legalized in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. We aimed to determine the current degree of public acceptance of euthanasia across Europe and investigate what factors explain differences.


Data were derived from the 2008 wave of the European Values Survey (EVS), conducted in 47 European countries (N = 67,786, response rate = 69 %). Acceptance of euthanasia was rated on a 1–10 scale.


Relatively high acceptance was found in a small cluster of Western European countries, including the three countries that have legalized euthanasia and Denmark, France, Sweden and Spain. In a large part of Europe public acceptance was relatively low to moderate. Comparison with the results of the previous EVS wave (1999) suggests a tendency towards a polarization in Europe, with most of Western Europe becoming more permissive and most of Eastern Europe becoming less permissive.


There is roughly a West-East division in euthanasia acceptance among the European public, making a pan-European policy approach to the issue difficult.

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Joachim Cohen is a postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). This study used data of the European Values Study 2008, 4th wave, Integrated Dataset. GESIS Data Archive, Cologne, Germany, ZA4800 Dataset Version 2.0.0 (2010-11-30), doi:10.4232/1.10188. The analyses and writing activities were funded by a grant from the Research Council of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (HOA27). We would like to thank Jane Ruthven for proofreading and copy editing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joachim Cohen.

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J. Cohen and P. Van Landeghem contributed equally to this work.



See Tables 2, 3 and 4.

Table 2 Constructed measures through principal component analysis (items and component loadings)
Tables 3 Results of the ANCOVA analysis
Tables 4 Results of linear mixed-effects model analysis

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Cohen, J., Van Landeghem, P., Carpentier, N. et al. Public acceptance of euthanasia in Europe: a survey study in 47 countries. Int J Public Health 59, 143–156 (2014).

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