Canada

NEW 2016 National Poll on "Assisted Dying"

Assisted dying proposals offside with most Canadians

See full Poll Report here.

While most Canadians support legalizing some form of assisted suicide or euthanasia, they do not want to permit these under a broad range of conditions, according to a new national poll. Most who favor legalization would restrict it to the terminally ill.

The poll was conducted in early March by Public Square Research for LifeCanada.

According to the survey, 50% of Canadians would allow assisted dying only for those in a “grievous and irremediable circumstances, with strict limits.” Another 10% are completely opposed to legislation.

“The public basically understand assisted dying as something that should apply only to the terminally ill,” said LifeCanada executive director Natalie Sonnen.

Allowing assisted dying in other circumstances has even less support. For instance, only 16% would allow it for the mentally ill and 10% for minors without parental consent.  

“Public support,” Sonnen said, “does not correspond with recent recommendations by Parliament’s Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. I think the federal government would do well not to disregard Canadians’ views.” The committee made 21 recommendations to Parliament last month and government is expected to introduce legislation soon.

The Public Square survey found Canadians tolerant toward physicians and health care institutions that have conscientious objections to assisted dying. 66% said doctors should not be obliged to provide it “against their moral beliefs,” and 68% said health care institutions should not be obliged to provide it “against their religious beliefs.” 

“Here too the public is at odds with the approach taken by the parliamentary committee,” said Sonnen.

She also said the survey shows strong support for a free vote in Parliament. Only 9% of Canadians said MPs should adhere to the party line when they vote. 65% said they should follow constituents’ wishes, with another 26% saying they should vote according to personal conviction.

The Public Square survey polled 950 Canadian adults in both French and English, including 250 Canadians who self-identify as physically or mentally disabled, and a targeted over sample of 200 seniors.

Other Survey Findings:

  • 54% say ensuring palliative care access is more important than access to assisted dying, vs. 22% who say access to assisted dying is more important.
  • 50% say protecting the vulnerable against undue pressure is more important than access to assisted dying, vs. 31% who say access to assisted dying is more important. 
  • 67% say two or more medical professionals, or an independent committee, should be involved in any assisted death that takes place, to ensure the vulnerable are protected
  • Only 1/3 support letting nurses as well as doctors administer lethal measures to patients
  • Surprisingly, while Quebec has more experience with doctor-assisted dying than the rest of Canada, Quebecers are more in favor than other Canadians of restricting it to “grievous and irremediable circumstances, with strict limits” (58% vs. 47%).