Poll: Canadians Moving Away From Support for Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 8, 2010   |   5:07PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

A new poll finds Canadians are moving away from supporting legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has been contracting an annual poll for several years to measure public opinion on the contentious practices, but the recent survey provides the group some good news.
“The recent Environics group survey shows that the EPC strategy not only convinced MP’s to vote against legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, but has also helped to shift public opinion against the legalization of euthanasia in Canada,’ says EPC director Alex Schadenberg.
Bill C-384, which would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide was defeated by 228 to 59 in April and the  survey on euthanasia was based on 2025 Canadians who were questioned in mid-September.
“The research indicates that Canadians are concerned that if euthanasia were legal that it would negatively affect vulnerable people and that support for legalizing euthanasia is dropping,’ Schadenberg told LifeNews.com today.
The poll found 59% supported legalizing euthanasia, with only 22% strongly supporting it. That’s down from 61 percent supporting it last year and 25 strongly supporting. Support was highest in Quebec (69%) and lowest in Saskatchewan/Manitoba 49%. Since last year, support dropped in Quebec by (6%) and dropped in Montreal by (15%).
The poll also found 63% were concerned elderly people would feel pressured to accept euthanasia to reduce health care costs. Last year, 56% shared the same concern and the concern was at its highest in Quebec, with 75 percent saying so.
It showed 78% were concerned a significant number of people who are sick, disabled or elderly would be euthanized without their consent. Last year, 70% shared the same concern and Quebec residents showed the highest concern at 80 percent.
The survey also found 71% believe that the government needs to place a greater priority on improving palliative care rather than legalizing euthanasia. Last year, 69% held this view but just 60 percent of Quebec residents say so in this poll.
Schadenberg is particularly concerned by one result.
“Sadly, 45% supported euthanizing terminally ill or severely disabled infants, such as occurs in the Netherlands under the procedure of the Groningen Protocol. Fortunately only 15% of those surveyed strongly supported this type of eugenic euthanasia,” he said.
Ultimately, he sees support for the legalization of euthanasia has fallen in all regions of Canada since last year and Canadians are more concerned that people will feel pressured to accept euthanasia in order to reduce health care costs.
“Canadians are more concerned, that if euthanasia were legal, a significant number of people would be euthanized without consent,” he said. “This is a well-founded concern. A study that was published in the CMAJ (May, 2010) found that 32% of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were done without explicit request or consent.” [related]
The anti-euthanasia advocate continued:  “The most important finding is that there is a growing trend that Canadians, in all regions, want the government to improve end-of-life care, rather than legalize euthanasia. In Quebec, where the government is attempting to find a consensus to legalize euthanasia through the back-door, (60%) preferred improving end-of-life care, rather than legalizing euthanasia.”