By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

MONTREAL, August 11, 2009 ( – An Angus Reid-La Presse poll carried out on August 4 and 5 has found that more than three quarters of Quebecers agree that euthanasia should be legalized in Quebec.

Jaideep Mukerji, Vice President of Public Affairs at Angus Reid Strategies, said he was surprised by the results of the poll of 800 adults in Quebec.

“You'd be surprised how Quebecers are in favor of euthanasia and that their opinion on the subject is clear,” Mukerji told La Presse, adding that support for the legalized killing was consistent across most social and economic strata.

“The responses of Quebecers are constant, regardless of gender, income or place of residence,” he said.

The general consensus of Quebecers on the issue of ending life supports the action of the Quebec College of Physicians who in July announced plans to recommend the decriminalization of euthanasia, under specific circumstances, in order to pressure the federal government to amend the Criminal Code.

Though the College of Physicians stresses that their recommendation does not endorse assisted suicide, the timing of their proposal and the intended release of a “discussion paper” on euthanasia in October, coincides with the upcoming debate in Parliament on Bill C-384 – the bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for people who are physically or mentally suffering or terminally ill – that was introduced by Francine Lalonde, the Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament from La Pointe-de-l'Île in May

Proposing that euthanasia be legalized “as part of appropriate care in certain particular circumstances,” the College's task force on ethics concluded that Quebec society was ready for the intentional killing of the terminally ill who are in intense pain (85% of Quebecers in favor), people with an incurable disease (58% of Quebecers in favor), and patients in a coma who have left instructions to be euthanized if reduced to such a condition (86% of Quebecers in favor).

Margaret Somerville, Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Montreal, told La Presse that the rejection of their cultural Catholicity by many in Quebec has played a major role in their acceptance of euthanasia.

“You can infer that Quebecers need a moral justification for euthanasia and that terrible pain can be one for them,” Somerville observed. “It's hard to argue against euthanasia if there is no religion.”

Suzanne Philips-Nootens, University of Sherbrooke professor at the Faculty of Law, cautioned that the survey results should not be taken at face value.

“Respondents expressed their view about an abstract situation,” she said. “But the day when people actually become ill, studies show that their views on euthanasia tend to change.”

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg questioned whether the respondents actually knew what euthanasia is, and may have confused euthanasia with the right to refuse medical treatment.

“Legalizing euthanasia would give someone (usually a physician) the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of another person. Assisted suicide means giving someone(usually a physician) the right to be directly and intentionally involved with causing the death of another person.

Schadenberg told that 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 person's death.

Schadenberg also expressed grave concern over the poll's revelation that a majority of Quebecers agreed that people with incurable disease could be euthanized.

“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. People with disabilities need to be concerned about negative attitudes that exist toward people who live with disabilities and incurable conditions.”

To help the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in its important work to defeat the passage of legislation that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for vulnerable Canadians, donations can be made by paypal through their website here, or by credit card by calling their office at: 1-877-439-3348.

See related LSN coverage:

Quebec Physicians Propose Legalized Euthanasia

MP Introduces Euthanasia Bill into Canadian Parliament

Council of Canadians with Disabilities Opposes Euthanasia Bill C-384

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Provides Package for Lobbying Canadian MPs over Euthanasia Bill