Do 80 Percent of Canadians Really Support Assisted Suicide?

International   |   Alex Schadenberg   |   Aug 2, 2012   |   10:38AM   |   Ottawa, Canada

A recent Angus Reid poll found that 80% of Canadians support legalizing assisted suicide.

My first response is related to the way the poll was done. This is an online poll that leads the respondents by providing information related the recent court decision in BC, the recent push for the British Medical Association (BMA) to take a “neutral” stand on assisted suicide (the BMA voted to continue opposing assisted suicide) and they stated that assisted suicide was legal in Montana, Oregon and Washington states. Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.

The Angus Reid poll leads me to ask the question, why do people support doctor-assisted suicide?

Previous polling that the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) did found that most people support assisted suicide because they fear dying in pain or experiencing uncontrolled symptoms. Susan Eng, a spokesperson for CARP stated:

“What they’re actually telling (us) is they’re afraid of a bad death. They’re afraid that when the end comes and it gets ugly, that they’re in terrible pain or lose all their dignity, that they don’t have a way out. More emphasis needs to be put on palliative care”

Previous polls also showed that many people somewhat supported assisted suicide, but very few people strongly supported assisted suicide.

People are responding to the fear of experiencing uncontrolled pain by stating they support assisted suicide.

A recent Environics poll asked a different question. They were asked: Should Canadian governments put a higher priority on improving access to palliative care. 71% of Canadians thought that governments should place a greater priority on providing access to good palliative care rather than legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Further to that, the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (PCPCC) released their report – Not to be Forgotten – in November 2011. That report identified areas within end-of-life care, elder abuse and suicide prevention, that would enable a greater level of care and support for all Canadians.



Some of the recommendations from the PCPCC report are being implemented, but there is much more that can be done to support Canadians.

The real answer is to care for the needs of Canadians who are living with terminal conditions, chronic pain or disabilities; rather than legalizing physician assisted suicide, that ends the life of the person rather than helping a person live until they die. Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and you can read his blog here.