OTTAWA, Ontario, April 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A new poll has found that overall Canadian support for legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia is waning when compared to similar polls from other years. At the same time, the number of those who “strongly oppose” the legalization of both practices has risen significantly.
A March Environics poll commissioned by LifeCanada found that 63 percent of Canadians would support a law allowing physician-assisted suicide in Canada while 55 percent would support legalizing euthanasia.
These numbers have dropped over the last few years. A Forum Research poll conducted in January 2012 found support for legalizing physician-assisted suicide at 67 percent while an Environics poll conducted in September 2010 found support for legalizing euthanasia at 59 percent.
The decrease falls outside the Environics poll’s margin of error. The survey of 2,008 Canadians, which took place in March, has a margin of error of 2.2%, 19 times out of 20.
“Canadian’s are not convinced this is the right way to go,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, to LifeSiteNews.com.
“There’s very little strong support for euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. Most people are very hesitant about their support for it.”
Schadenberg said that the poll indicates that Canadians are not buying arguments from the right-to-die lobby, in spite of heightened media and social pressure on the issue.
The poll found that only 29 percent of Canadians “strongly” support legalizing assisted suicide and only 18 percent “strongly” support legalized euthanasia.
“The strong support in favor is still not there. It has never been there, and it continues not to be there,” said Schadenberg.
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On the flipside, the poll found that a growing number of Canadians “strongly oppose” legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, at 32 and 40 percent respectively. These numbers have dramatically risen from the above-mentioned 2012 Forum Research poll that found only 21 percent opposed legalizing assisted suicide and from the 2010 Environics poll that found that 20 percent opposed legalizing euthanasia.
Natalie Sonnen, Executive Director of LifeCanada, believes that the numbers are shifting away from having assisted suicide and euthanasia made legal because of Canadian’s “great trepidation” over the issue.
“Clearly the elderly and disabled know that they are most at risk. They see the potential for abuse. Politicians and policy makers need to listen to them,” she said to LifeSiteNews.
Sonnen pointed out in a press release that Canadians have heard the abuse stories from places like Belgium and the Netherlands where patient consent requirements are often ignored. About 33 percent of euthanasia deaths in Belgium reportedly occur without patient consent.
“That scares people,” said Sonnen.
“Older and vulnerable Canadians can see this affecting them directly,” she said. “They worry that they will be seen as a burden.”
Sonnen called such concern “realistic,” pointing out that earlier this year, a member of the recently elected government of Japan said that elderly and financially dependent Japanese have a duty to die quickly to take pressure off the government-funded social service system.
Said Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso: “The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.”
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently prohibited in Canada. The poll comes at a time when federal laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia are being challenged in several provinces.
“A BC Supreme Court ruling in the Carter case, which would allow assisted suicide, is before the BC Court of Appeal. The Quebec government has promised legislation on ‘medical aid in dying’ this year. And Susan Griffiths, a Manitoba resident with multiple system atrophy, has gone to die in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal,” LifeCanada pointed out.
Schadenberg said that most people throw their support behind assisted suicide and euthanasia because they “fear dying a bad death”. He said the solution is not to allow doctors to kill their patients or to allow people to kill themselves, but to have better end-of-life care.
LifeCanada is worried that if Canada goes the way of Belgium, despite an increasing number of Canadians opposed to such a move, it will expose the vulnerable to abuse.
“When doctors abandon the ‘do no harm’ principle, what replaces it?” said Sonnen. “It will be a utilitarian approach of reducing costs, freeing up beds and judgments about someone else’s quality of life.”
LifeCanada is calling on policy-makers to “tread carefully” in crafting legislation that deals with end of life issues.