Euthanasia Opponents See Canada Assisted Suicide Poll Differently

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Euthanasia Opponents See Canada Assisted Suicide Poll Differently Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 8
, 2007

Toronto, Canada ( — Representatives of a leading anti-euthanasia group say that the media reporting on a new survey in Canada on assisted suicide was somewhat misleading. A study there found a majority of patients want assisted suicide to be legal and that a good percentage of those polled would take advantage of such a law to kill themselves.

Most of the patients who said they would commit suicide under a law allowing it would do so because they have uncontrolled pain. But, the study found that when appropriate pain relief was given the patients were no longer interested in assisted suicide.

Dr. L.L. (Barrie) deVebe, the president of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said that people who are most likely going to consider assisted suicide are those who are experiencing "profound existential distress."

"We know that the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide directly threatens the lives of our most vulnerable citizens at the most vulnerable time of their life," deVebe told "We also know that the primary reason people desire ‘mercy killing’ is" because of the distress.

"Therefore we reiterate that euthanasia and assisted suicide must remain illegal and enforced by the law in order to protect vulnerable people who need to receive excellent care and not killing," deVebe added.

Published in the journal Health Psychology, the survey included 379 patients who currently receive palliative care for cancer. The journal interviewed the patients and found that 63 percent want the grisly practice legalized in Canada.

But the anti-euthanasia group says that further study of the article finds "only 22 seriously considered intentionally dying" and most of those only because they felt they were a burden to their family — something that supportive palliative care could have helped them understand may not be true.

University of Manitoba psychiatrist Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, a palliative care researcher who was involved in the study, said patients who say they are a burden to others are often in "profound existential distress."

Eliminate that distress and the perceived need for assisted suicide nearly vanishes, the group contends.