Four-in-five Canadians favour allowing physician-assisted suicide in Canada

Four-in-five Canadians (79%) favour allowing physician-assisted suicide in Canada under the conditions stipulated by the Supreme Court of Canada, with only 15% being against the move, a new Canada-wide Insights West poll has found.

In February, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a law that makes it illegal for anyone to help a person die should be amended to allow physicians to provide assistance if two conditions are met:
1) If the request is made by a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life.
2) If the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

The Supreme Court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to its ruling, but it is not clear if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s month old Liberal government will be able to meet the deadline.

Support for allowing physician-assisted suicide in the country, while meeting the two Supreme Court guidelines, is highest in British Columbia (90%) and among Canadians aged 55 and over (87%), the poll found.

“The debate on physician-assisted suicide has continued after the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs, at Insights West, said. “However, the two guidelines seem to have put Canadians at ease when it comes to the extent and effect of any future legislation.”

Across the country, 11% of Canadians think physician-assisted suicide should never be allowed, regardless of who requests it—a proportion that rises to 16% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 15% in Ontario.

Conversely, seven-in-ten Canadians (69%) would allow physician-assisted suicide, but only under specific circumstances.

When asked about the regulations that are currently in place in Canada to deal with the issue of physician-assisted suicide, only 30% of Canadians are “satisfied” while 43% claim to be “dissatisfied” and 27% are not sure.

Government house leader Dominic LeBlanc announced that a new joint committee of MPs and senators will be appointed to provide the Canadian Parliament with recommendations for legislation on physician assisted suicide, but Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has hinted at the possibility of requesting for an extension to give Ottawa more time to develop new rules.

The charity Dying With Dignity Canada has made repeated calls for the federal government to rule out asking the Supreme Court to delay the implementation of its ruling.

“Nine months after the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, the old law continues to drive some Canadians to seek assisted dying overseas,” DWD Canada CEO Wanda Morris said in late October. “It compels others to end their own lives at home, prematurely and sometimes in a violent manner. We ask our new government to lead with compassion to ensure that Canadian patients no longer have to take drastic measures to die on their own terms.”

Results are based on a study conducted from November 21 to November 25, 2015, among a representative sample of 1,035 Canadian adults with margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points.