For many years the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has been analyzing Canadian survey results related to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The first major survey that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition commissioned was part of an Environics Group – National Omnibus survey in April 2001.
The recent Environics Group survey, sponsored by Life Canada, shows that the EPC strategy not only convinced MPs to vote against legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, but has also helped to shift public opinion against the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. (Bill C-384, which would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide was defeated by 228 to 59 on April 21). The survey on euthanasia was based on 2025 Canadians questioned between Sept. 15 – 22.
The research indicates that Canadians are concerned that if euthanasia were legal that it would negatively affect vulnerable people and that support for legalizing euthanasia is dropping. The survey found that:
59 per cent supported legalizing euthanasia, with only 22 per cent strongly supporting. Last year, 61 per cent supported legalizing euthanasia with only 25 per cent strongly supporting. Support was highest in Quebec (69 per cent) and lowest in Saskatchewan/Manitoba (49 per cent). Since last year, support dropped in Quebec by (6 per cent) and dropped in Montreal by (15 per cent).
63 per cent were concerned that elderly people would feel pressured to accept euthanasia to reduce health care costs. Last year, 56 per cent shared the same concern. Concern that elderly people would feel pressured was highest in Quebec (75 per cent).
78 per cent were concerned that a significant number of people who are sick, disabled or elderly would be euthanized without their consent. Last year, 70 per cent shared the same concern. Once again, it is interesting that the highest concern is in Quebec (81 per cent).
71 per cent believe that the government needs to place a greater priority on improving palliative care rather than legalizing euthanasia. Last year, 69 per cent held this view. In Quebec 60 per cent wanted the government to improve palliative care rather than legalize euthanasia.
Sadly, 45 per cent supported euthanizing terminally ill or severely disabled infants, such as occurs in the Netherlands under the procedure of the Groningen Protocol. Fortunately only 15 per cent of those surveyed strongly supported this type of eugenic euthanasia.
It is notable that support for the legalization of euthanasia has fallen in all regions of Canada since last year and that Canadians are more concerned that people will feel pressured to accept euthanasia in order to reduce health care costs..
Canadians are more concerned, that if euthanasia were legal, a significant number of people would be euthanized without consent. This is a well-founded concern. A study that was published in the CMA Journal (May 2010) found that 32 per cent of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium were done without explicit request or consent.
Alex Schadenberg is executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. A version of this article originally appeared at his blog alexschadenberg.blogspot.com on Nov. 8.