Canadian Poll Shows Concerns of Hurting Disabled by Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 3, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Poll Shows Concerns of Hurting Disabled by Legalizing Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 3
, 2009

Ottawa, Canada ( — A new poll conducted by the polling firm Environics for a Canadian pro-life group shows residents of Canada support legalizing assisted suicide, but do so with considerable reservations. The poll finds 61% said they favored legalization if a patient consents but large majorities also have concerns.

Support for assisted suicide included 75% of Quebecers but that support drops to 56% in Ontario, 52% in Atlantic Canada and 51% in Saskatchewan.

However, the poll also found 70% of Canadians worried that if legalization occurs, sick, disabled, or elderly persons would be euthanized without their consent. In addition, 56% were concerned that elderly persons would be pressured to accept euthanasia due to rising health care costs.

“Outside of Quebec support drops dramatically and is tempered by fears about how vulnerable groups will be affected,” says Delores Doherty of LifeCanada, the pro-life group that commissioned the survey. “The idea that Canadians are clamoring for euthanasia is not accurate, despite the impression that may have been left from some polls.”

“Canadians are conflicted. They have mixed feelings,” the Newfoundland pediatrician told in a statement. “While a majority favors legalization, most also have serious concerns about it.”

Even those who favor legalization share the concerns about its impact on the disabled and elderly.

Some 2% of those “somewhat supportive” of legalization express concern about euthanasia taking place without patient consent. In Quebec, where support for legalization is high, 73% have the same concern about non-voluntary euthanasia, while 66% worry the elderly would be pressured to accept euthanasia.

“A lot of stated support for legal euthanasia is soft,” Doherty commented. “When Canadians consider the risks, they have second thoughts.”

The poll results sent a clear message to federal politicians considering a bill that would legalize assisted suicide, the pro-life advocate told

When asked what the government’s priority should be in this area, 69% said improved palliative care compared to just 18% who said legalizing euthanasia should be the priority.

“When people are dying, good palliative care can relieve suffering. Every Canadian needs access to that,” says Doherty. “It also maintains the principle of ‘first do no harm’ that is essential to the doctor-patient relationship.”

According to Doherty assisted suicide undermines that principle.

“If it is made legal, we’ll see an erosion of patient trust as doctors move from healing to taking lives. People are worried that elderly and disabled folks would be at risk. They’re right. The Dutch experience with euthanasia sadly bears that out. Safeguards tend not to work," she said.

Parliament currently is debating a private member’s bill by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide under certain circumstances.

On October 2, the measure received its first hour of debate after Lalonde won a higher number in the lottery for private members bills.

The first-hour of debate had eight speeches on C-384 with two in favor (Lalonde and Serge Cardin of the BQ speaking) and six opposed, including David Anderson (CPC), John McKay (Lib), Jacques Gourde (CPC), Marlene Jennings (Lib), Joe Comartin (NDP), and Paul Szabo (Lib).

Another debate is slated for this month.

Related web sites:
LifeCanada –

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