Friday, September 10, 2010

CARP survey does not suggest broad support for assisted suicide?

An article written by Lee Greenberg that was published today in the Ottawa citizen newspaper reports that CARP - (Canadian Association for Retired Persons) suggests that their membership stongly supports the legalization of assisted suicide.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has financed several opinion polls on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide and we have found that Canadians are very concerned about the care that they may or may not receive and the type of palliative care that is available to them, but they are not strongly in favour of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Ottawa Citizen article begins by stating:
An overwhelming majority of the members of Canada's leading lobby group for the elderly supports physician-assisted suicide, according to a new survey.
The article then suggests that 71% of the respondents to the CARP online poll supported legalizing euthanasia.

By reading throught the article an interesting quote shows up from Susan Eng, a spokesperson for CARP:
Eng said she believes the polling results shouldn't be interpreted strictly as a call to legalize euthanasia. "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," she said. More emphasis needs to be put on palliative care, she said.

Critics like Gélinas accuse the Ontario government of deliberately underfunding palliative care facilities because they are often given donations.

"It's the only part of the health-care system that works that way," she said. "And I think that's sick."
Further to the commments by Susan Eng, the CARP website features a comment by Ron Keast, a member of the CARP advisory board that states:
“While I think it is great, if not surprising, that CARP members are out in front of policy makers on questions relating to the Quality of Death, especially improving the availability of palliative care and home based options, the controversial issue of euthanasia needs a far more cautious approach. What moral philosophers have called "the slippery slope" is quite slippery indeed on this issue.

If I may quote several somewhat humorous, but relevant, comments in a 2009 book by David Berlinski:

"In 1994, Holland Legalized euthanasia. Critics immediately objected that Dutch doctors, having been given the right to kill their elderly patients at their request, would almost at once find reasons to kill patients at their whim. This is precisely what has happened. The Journal of Medical Ethics, in reviewing Dutch hospital practices, reported that 3 percent of Dutch deaths for 1995 were assisted suicides, and that of these, fully one-fourth were involuntary. The doctors simply knocked their patients off, no doubt assuring the family that Grootmoeder would have wanted it that way. As a result, a great many elderly Dutch carry around sanctuary certificates indicating in no uncertain terms that they do not wish their doctors to assist them to die, emerging from their coma, when they are ill, just long enough to tell these murderous pests for heaven's sake go away. Euthanasia, as Dr. Peggy Norris has observed with some asperity, 'cannot be controlled'."

I would not care to spend my old age in Holland, nor, I suspect, would the majority of CARP members.
Our polling found that when Canadians were asked whether they thought the government should make improving end-of-life care a priority or legalizing euthanasia a priority or both, that Canadians overwhelming supported improving end-of-life care over legalizing euthanasia.

Our polling also found that Canadians are concerned that vulnerable Canadians might be threatened by legalizing euthanasia.

Now that society is aware of the growing scourge of elder abuse within our society, I would hope that CARP turns its energy toward protecting the life and health of seniors rather than how society can kill seniors. Many seniors find themselves pressured and treated with indignity.

Will euthanasia become the ultimate form of elder abuse?

The recent bill in parliament to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada was defeated on April 21, 2010 by a vote of 228 to 59.

The CARP online poll was completed by more than 3,200 members of the organization. The majority of respondents were over 55 and roughly 60 per cent live in Ontario. CARP has 80,000 members.

Link to the comment by Ron Keast on the CARP website:

Link to the Ottawa Citizen article:

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