A survey carried out in several areas of the country showed more than 80% of people supported euthanasia for those with incurable, painful illness, Zhao Gongmin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

Approval rates were especially high among the elderly, he said.

However, he added that conditions were "not yet ripe for national-level legislation on euthanasia". 

"I think it is only a matter of time for euthanasia to become legal," Zhao said, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

"Therefore, we should allow some experiments on the local level for the purpose of accumulating experience."

Controversial

"We should allow some experiments on the local level for the purpose of accumulating experience"

Zhao Gongmin, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Euthanasia has come up at previous parliament meetings and been a subject of controversy around the country for years.

Zhao's point comes as the government has pledged to put massive new investment in its decaying rural health care system, which is leaving many millions with no access to money unable to afford medical treatment.
   
It is not uncommon for rural people with serious illnesses to kill themselves, often to avoid burdening their families with expensive medical bills.