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Canadian Poll Finds Two Thirds Support Legalization of Euthanasia

LifeSiteNews.com

By Patrick B. Craine

February 23, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An Angus Reid poll released last week found that approximately two-thirds of Canadians nationwide support the legalization of euthanasia. At the same time, however, a prominent anti-euthanasia activist has questioned the results, saying that “there's still an awful lot of misunderstanding” about euthanasia. 

The poll found that respondents from Quebec and British Columbia were most likely to support the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.  67% of all respondents supported legalizing euthanasia, while 77% of respondents from Quebec supported legalization, and 75% of those from BC. Twenty-three percent of respondents opposed legalization.

Additionally, 48% disagreed with the statement that legalizing euthanasia would “leave vulnerable people without sufficient legal protection,” while 41% agreed.

Regarding assisted suicide, 43% stated that parents who help a terminally ill son or daughter to die should not be punished, and 41% thought any person who helps someone else commit suicide should not be prosecuted.

The poll also asked whether respondents thought that legalizing euthanasia would give those who are suffering an opportunity to ease their pain.  85% agreed, and 9% disagreed.

The poll was conducted between February 2nd and 3rd, through online interviews with 1,003 Canadian adults. The margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews (LSN), however, that he does not consider “the poll results as being totally accurate.” 

He explained that this is “not because I don't think there's a lot of support for euthanasia, because actually I know there is a fair amount, but because the Quebec physicians, for example, have been constantly talking about euthanasia as being the same thing as use of large doses of pain killers in palliative care, and, of course, that's not true.”

Schadenberg believes that ongoing statements from such bodies as the Quebec College of Physicians (CMQ) and the Federation of Quebec Medical Specialists (FMSQ) have exacerbated the confusion that exists around euthanasia.

Both the CMQ and the FMSQ have called for euthanasia to be legalized, while apparently arguing that the practice of palliative sedation is a form of euthanasia.  Palliative sedation involves using a drug regimen to put a patient into a sleep in order to prevent them from suffering intractible pain. The practice is properly used when administered with a palliative intention or when the patient is nearing death.  This technique is rarely required, but the practice has become commonly abused, by sedating a person with the intention of hastening their death, and by withdrawing all fluids and food.  In this case, the patient dies of dehydration, and their death is not a natural death.

The CMQ and FMSQ have both argued, as they did last week before the Quebec government's legislative committee examining euthanasia, that the practice of palliative sedation, which has long been considered ethical by ethicists, could currently be considered illegal under Canadian law.  While no doctors have been prosecuted, they insist that doctors fear the law.

Dr. Margaret Somerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University, refuted this claim in an op-ed on Tuesday in the Montreal Gazette.  “Palliative means the sedative was necessary to relieve pain and suffering and was not given with an intention of killing the patient,” she wrote.  “That cannot result in a murder charge, or any other legal charge, unless the patient refused it.”

Somerville added that the public's wishes shouldn't dictate the law.  “Just because the public wants something or a majority votes for it doesn't mean it is ethical - or even wise,” she wrote.  “Democratic decisions and ethical ones are not necessarily the same.”

Schadenberg made a similar comment regarding the current Angus Reid poll.  “Just because a large group of people want it to happen, that doesn't help out the group of people who are threatened by it,” he said.  He explained that many people who favour euthanasia are “thinking out of fear.”

“They're thinking of 'I don't want to experience what maybe my mother or my aunt or my friend did.',” he said.  “And that's understandable.  But we don't give doctors the right to directly and intentionally cause our death because of fear.”

“What I'm suggesting is that the majority of Canadians don't actually understand the question,” Schadenberg reiterated.  “If they did, they would feel far more unsettled.”

An October Environics poll commissioned by LifeCanada revealed a majority supporting euthanasia, but also seemed to indicate that Canadians are conflicted on the issue.  While 61% stated support for legalization, 70% indicated that they were worried that if euthanasia were legalized, patients would be euthanized without their consent.  Additionally, 69% said that the government's priority should be improving palliative care, while only 18% wanted legalization as the priority.

LifeSiteNews did not hear back from Angus Reid by press time.


See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Quebec Doctors Want their Euthanasia Practices Acknowledged, Legalized
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/feb/10021606.html

Pro-Life MP Disappointed that Vote on Euthanasia Bill Has Been Delayed Again 
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/dec/09120306.html

New Poll Reveals that Canadians are Conflicted About Legal Euthanasia
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/nov/09110301.html

Anti-Euthanasia Group Questions Survey Suggesting Quebec MDs are Favorable to Euthanasia
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/oct/09101404.html

Anti-Euthanasia Group Questions Survey Suggesting Quebec MDs are Favorable to Euthanasia  
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/oct/09101404.html



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