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.

9 Responses to Four-in-five Canadians favour allowing physician-assisted suicide in Canada

  1. Anonymous says:

    Why are there laws against suicide in the first place? Why does society/government dictate that a person should live against his will?

    • Anonymous says:

      Because it is the most ethical option of the given choices.

      It basically comes down to this: the illegality of suicide means nothing in terms of a moral condemnation of the act, and such laws generally exist to permit society to interfere in a suicide attempt and save the life of the person in question.

      In general, someone who is suicidal will either, after the attempt, look back on the attempt as a good idea or a bad idea. Obviously, if they survive and they’re glad they survived, then great. If they’re dead, then they’re dead and they have no opinion on the matter. The only negative outcome arises when someone survives but wishes they hadn’t. The problem? How do we weigh the benefits of saving someone who will eventually be glad they survived against the detriment of saving someone who will continue wishing they were dead?

      There are two schools of thought – one, that we should allow suicide attempts to succeed on the assumption that all attempts are performed by those who actually want to die, or two, that we interfere in all attempts on the assumption that the suicidal person in question will actually eventually decide they want to live. Clearly, we can be wrong in both cases, so which case causes the most harm?

      Ethically speaking, the most correct of the two imperfect options is to allow society to interfere. This operates on the assumption that, generally, suicidal people are a) very often not of sound mind and are therefore not capable of making an informed decision, and b) if they ARE of sound mind and still want to die, they will eventually succeed, regardless of the intervention of society.

      Clearly, it’s imperfect – questions about doctor-assisted suicide are among the reasons why, since, clearly, those who want to die are NOT always eventually going to succeed at killing themselves. But it’s the best we have, given the options.

  2. Realbertan says:

    In the US, Obama set up death panels. In Canada, Trudeau is doing the same.

    • Karla Panchuk says:

      At the risk of feeding a troll, I see that you comment on a wide range of news stories, which means you must make an effort to inform yourself about current affairs. You clearly have a perspective which you view to be inconsistent with that of many others, but your comments are usually of the sort you’ve made here. Perhaps take the time to articulate your ideas and arguments carefully so you can participate in the discussion. If your ideas are important then your current style of commenting is doing exactly the opposite of convincing people that what you think has merit. Otherwise I imagine most people will continue to do as I do, and skip your comments as soon as they see your handle.

  3. Gordon James says:

    There are a couple of issues here that are way outside of public opinion.

    1. Doctors take an oath to “do no harm”. I strongly feel we should not make doctors the people who have to administer death.

    2. Suicide is not that difficult. Making suicide painless takes far more precision. Good methods include barbiturate or opiate overdose. Neither of these needs to be administered by a doctor or health care professional. These could be purchased through hospital pharmacies of police departments or some other secure site to reduce the chances of theft or abuse.

    3. Legal issues abound. There needs to be protections so that I do not kill my elderly parents or mentally ill family members that I have legal guardianship over.

    4. Financial issues abound. Insurance companies may use suicide (even if it only hastens death by a few days) as a reason not to pay out on insurance claims.

    5. Mental health issues here are huge. There should be a screening process before a person can get a prescription for suicide medications. This would hopefully result in some candidates deciding they want to live. It might also help us find and assist people in desperate situations to have a better life.

    Most people who really want to end their lives can already do it.

    The exceptions are people already trapped in declining bodies who do not have anyone (friend or family) to help them.

    We already have assisted suicides (someone sold them the drugs). What we do not want are doctor assisted suicides.

    We also have situations where people who are mourning the loss of a loved one are questioned as suspects (as though it was a murder). By allowing people to apply for and register that they are killing themselves, this helps us be sure that they are free from coercion.

    Please don’t make doctors a part of the process of suicide.

    • Karla Panchuk says:

      The oath taken by doctors does not actually require them to swear that they will do no harm. Even if it did, interpreting “do no harm” as an injunction to preserve life disregards suffering.

      The relevant parts of the modern oath (at least one version of it) are far more subtle where life and death are concerned:

      “Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.”

      -from Johns Hopkins,

      It is open to interpretation what is meant by not playing at God, but if you subscribe to the notion of a God who sets the course of a life, then preventing death is not necessarily playing at God.

      What is needed is a referral system to a team of people who can assess the situation properly, including both physical and mental health aspects, and then act with compassion. This would not require individual doctors to assist a patient to die whether those doctors wish to be in that position or not. People who have chosen a role where they deal with these matters would do so.

    • Rick Gray says:

      “2. Suicide is not that difficult.”

      Really? Have you never seen the result of a failed *serious* suicide attempt? Every *body* is different. Even a bullet in the head in the “right place” isn’t a guarantee that you don’t just survive as a *severely* handicapped person the rest of your life… of which either your loved ones or the medical system is now in charge of providing for. The latter is likely to abandon you and make you homeless to cut costs so… not really an “easy” route. A lot of people who *think* it is, have either not given it a lot of honest thought *or* are lying about it to further a personal agenda.

    • nikala levi says:

      Outrageous Canada trudeau playing God .So he saves money .People who are downtrodden re financially and not wanting to be a burden will die now .Canada is an evil country .Gods judgement is upon you .I am deeply grieved in spirit.

  4. Isabel says:

    I think I am the one in the five people, who believe that physician assisted suicide should not be allowed. According to me a person has no right to take someone else’s life. This law may give rise to many different complications and unforeseen crimes.

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