Poll Shows Canadians’ Support for Assisted Suicide on the Decline

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 8, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Poll Shows Canadians’ Support for Assisted Suicide on the Decline

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 8, 2003

Ottawa, Canada (LifeNews.com) — A new poll shows a majority of Canadians still favor assisted suicide, but the numbers are on the decline.

Pollara, a Canadian polling firm, conducted the survey and found that 49 percent of Canadians backed assisted suicide while 37 percent opposed it. Thirteen percent remained undecided.

Some 53 percent of men favored legalization while only 45 percent of women agreed.

Michael Marzolini, the president of Pollara, said previous surveys were conducted after high-profile assisted suicide cases that may have artificially inflated the level of support. The current poll may be a more accurate reflection of how Canadians stand on the issue.

"This is not something that’s top of mind, yet this is a good period to be taking these surveys on moral values, Marzolini said. "People have been re-evaluating their attitudes to many of these issues."

A 1997 poll taken shortly after Robert Latimer was sentenced for killing his disabled 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, found 70 percent of Canadians said assisted suicide was allowable in some circumstances and 60 percent favored legalizing it. Only 32 percent opposed legalization then.

Pro-life groups say the language of the terms used in the polls can produce different outcomes.

A January 1999 poll for the Toronto Globe and Mail found that 56 percent of Canadians opposed assisted suicide.

Yoseph Thomson of the British Columbia-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the Pollara "polls were not reliable because they failed to accurately define terms." He said the Toronto Globe poll more accurately defined "mercy killing," and produced more accurate results.

Dr. Will Johnston of EPC agreed saying, "Canadians don’t want to terminate the sick and disabled, they want to care for them."

"There is no consensus about so-called mercy-killing." Johnston stated. "But there is definitely a public consensus for better palliative care services to relieve the suffering of dying persons. That’s where we should be focusing our attention instead of frightening sick and disabled Canadians with proposals to eliminate them."

A June 1997 poll conducted for EPC found that 71% of the public were opposed to assisted suicide when it was more clearly defined. A large majority (81%) wanted the government to guarantee palliative care and pain relief for the dying as an alternative to more drastic measures such as euthanasia.

A 1995 government panel put together to study the issue split over its findings with some members saying the law should remain the same and a few others advocating legalizing assisted suicide.

The latest Pollara survey of 1,263 Canadians was conducted Aug. 5-7.

Related web sites:

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – https://www.epc.bc.ca