A recent Angus Reid poll in Quebec of 800 adults (August 4, 5) found that 77% of the respondents agree with Euthanasia, 75% of the respondents supported the Collége des médecins du Québec opening the euthanasia debate with 72% of the respondents believing that Canadians should have the right to refuse medical treatment that could save their lives.
Link to the poll information: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/sante/200908/10/01-891423-les-quebecois-favorables-a-leuthanasie.php
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) questions whether the respondents actually knew what euthanasia is? Many Canadians confuse euthanasia with the right to refuse medical treatment.
Legalizing euthanasia would give (usually a physician) the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of another person. Assisted suicide means giving (usually a physician) the right to be directly and intentionally involved with causing the death of another person.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are often viewed as issues related to personal autonomy but they in fact represent a loss of autonomy since euthanasia and assisted suicide require another person to be directly and intentionally involved with causing a persons death.
The validity of such a poll comes into question when one considers the context of the poll.
Since Canadians already have the right to refuse medical treatment that could save their lives. It is interesting that there is less support for a measure that they have the right to already. It may be that most Canadians are unaware that they have the right to refuse medical treatment. Would the level of support for euthanasia change if the respondents knew that the right to refuse medical treatment already existed?
It is very concerning that this poll indicated that 58% of the respondents supported euthanasia for people who were not terminally ill but living with an incurable illness. The poll also indicated that 40% of the respondents supported euthanasia for newborns with disabilities. In the Netherlands the Groningen Protocol was developed to euthanize newborns with disabilities. People with disabilities need to be concerned about negative attitudes that exist toward people who live with disabilities and incurable conditions.
In March 2005 EPC participated in an Angus Reid survey of 1122 participants from across Canada. Our polling found that the responses of Canadians changed based on the context of the question.
Our poll included a series of ten questions. The first question we asked resulted in a similar support for assisted suicide as the recent poll. We then asked eight further questions with the tenth question being a near restatement of the first question. The response to the tenth question was: 45% of Canadians supported the legalization of assisted suicide, 39% of Canadians opposed the legalization of assisted suicide while 16% were undecided. In other words, when people have a chance to think about assisted suicide with respect to its related issues within societal context then the support for assisted suicide drops.
The response to the some of the other questions were very interesting.
• 77% believed that vulnerable Canadians might be euthanised without consent, even with safeguards in place.
• 75% believed that recent assisted suicide cases are not reason enough to change the current law.
• 69% believed that the law should discourage suicide by restricting the promotion of devices and methods.
• 67% believed that legalizing assisted suicide would increase the suicide rate.
• 54% believed that guaranteeing pain control and good hospice care was a higher priority than legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide.
• 69% are more concerned about protecting vulnerable Canadians than legalizing assisted suicide while 16% were undecided.
It is important to note that our poll showed that the majority of Canadians were more concerned about protecting vulnerable Canadians and guaranteeing pain control and good hospice care rather than legalizing assisted suicide.
Therefore the real support for euthanasia or assisted suicide can only be determined once it has been placed within a social context.
EPC is currently working to defeat Bill C-384, the private members bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for Canadians who live with chronic physical or mental pain.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Office: 1-877-439-3348, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org