Canadians have mixed feelings on euthanasia, new poll shows

  • November 5, 2010
EuthanasiaOTTAWA - A new opinion poll shows that Canadians have a deep ambivalence when it comes to legalizing euthanasia.

According to an Environics poll, while a clear majority of Canadians support euthanasia, an even larger number fear what might happen to vulnerable elderly people if it is legalized.

The poll, commissioned by LifeCanada, shows 59 per cent of Canadians support legal euthanasia but 63 per cent worry legalizing it would pressure elderly Canadians to accept it to reduce health care costs.

“You’re always disappointed when you see any support,” said LifeCanada president Monica Roddis.

Heartening, however, is that support has declined slightly over the past year, and concern for vulnerable people has grown, said Roddis.

Eight in ten Canadians say legalizing euthanasia would lead to a significant number of elderly, sick or disabled people being euthanized without their consent, with Quebec showing the "highest concern about the abuses that might come from legalizing euthanasia,” said Roddis.

Quebeckers support legalizing euthanasia by a whopping 69 per cent, but 75 per cent fear that elderly Canadians would feel pressured. Support for euthanasia is lowest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba at 49 per cent.

Canadians, when given a choice between legal euthanasia or good palliative care, choose palliative care by a margin of three to one, the study shows.

Roddis said LifeCanada decided to double the size of the sample to more than 2,000 Canadians to get good data from Quebec where hearings are taking place on euthanasia. LifeCanada commissioned the poll not only to ascertain the ideas of Canadians, but also to educate them, Roddis said.

“Canadians are confused about euthanasia and what it means,” she said.

Roddis said there is a tremendous need for more education on the subject.

“The more (Canadians) learn, the more they get concerned,” she said. “They are less comfortable. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem like such a straightforward thing.”

The survey asked a number of tough questions, including some on whether severely disabled or ill infants should be euthanized upon their parents’ request. The poll shows that majorities in Atlantic Canada (58 per cent), Manitoba/Saskatchewan (57 per cent) and Ontario (51 per cent) oppose this, but those in British Columbia are more divided (50 per cent oppose, 45 per cent support). A majority of Quebeckers (55 per cent) support this.

Though the Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde’s euthanasia and assisted suicide bill was defeated last spring, Roddis warned the issue is not going away.  

“We’re seeing it worldwide, this push for euthanasia.”

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