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Quebec survey shows specialists favour euthanasia

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  • October 19, 2009
{mosimage}In response to a poll showing three-quarters of Quebec medical specialists would likely favour legalized euthanasia, Catholic groups say Canada must improve its end-of-life care.

The groups were responding to an Oct. 13 survey by the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists which suggests that a majority of those surveyed are in favour of supporting legalized euthanasia.

According to the study, 76 per cent of medical specialists would support a House of Commons bill legalizing euthanasia and 75 per cent “would certainly or probably be favourable to euthanasia within a clearly defined legislative framework.” Only 20 per cent said they “would definitely not use it.”

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition — Canada, told The Catholic Register that the survey’s results are going in the “wrong direction.” Instead of focusing on euthanasia, there should be better training of physicians in palliative care, he said.

“If you haven’t improved end-of-life care, what kind of choice are you offering?” Schadenberg asked.

Schadenberg says the specialists surveyed are “confused” about what euthanasia is, pointing to the survey result where 48 per cent said palliative sedation can be likened to a form of euthanasia. He said proper use of palliative sedation, which provides comfort for patients with a terminal illness, does not constitute euthanasia.

Meanwhile, others point to the ethical question of the debate. Moira McQueen, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, says it’s important to remember this is a “moral issue, more than anything else.”

“It does bother me immensely when it’s physicians who are talking (about euthanasia) because even though they’re not the last word in deciding the morality of things, they don’t necessarily have (better) morals than other people,” McQueen said.

The survey’s results are “worrisome,” she said, because doctors exert a lot of influence and could sway public opinion.

But federation president Dr. Gaeten Barrett said in a statement that the survey highlighted a basic fact: “Regardless of the type of legislative model or guidelines that might be put in place by the relevant government authorities with respect to the practice of euthanasia, doctors must always retain complete freedom to assist a patient in this manner.”

Twenty-three per cent of 8,717 medical specialists who were sent copies of the survey via Internet and mail from Aug. 28 to Sept. 15 responded. The margin of error was 1.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

A copy of the survey in French can be found at www.fmsq.org .

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