The Vast Majority Of Canadians Support Doctor-Assisted Suicide: Poll

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Only 15 per cent of Canadians are opposed to the idea of doctor-assisted suicide, according to a survey that crossed location, age and gender.

Insights West, a market research polling firm, asked 1,035 Canadians if they supported or opposed physician-assisted suicide, if (1) the request is made by a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life, and (2) 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.

A full 79 per cent of respondents said they strongly or moderately support the proposed ruling, for which the Liberal government asked the Supreme Court for a six-month extension this week. Six per cent said they were unsure.

Those in favour of the ruling feel there's no question right-to-die laws will be passed, but it's now a matter of how it is implemented.

The ruling, which would allow for a consenting adult who is enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to end his or her life with a physician’s help, has received plenty of attention from people on both sides of the debate.

In the most recent update from the Canadian Medical Association, the organization states medical aid in dying may be appropriate in rare occasions when patients are suffering at the end of life, but takes care to emphasize they support access to "the full spectrum of end of life care that is legal in Canada." They also stress doctors' rights in following "their conscience when deciding whether to provide medical aid in dying."

Under the law, physicians would not be obligated to assist the patient themselves, but would need to provide information about their rights and direct them to a physician, institution or agency who would be willing to help.

Those in favour of the ruling feel there's no question right-to-die laws will be passed, but it's now a matter of how it is implemented.

"The critical issue for us is access," Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada, tells The Huffington Post Canada. "There's a difference between a writ on paper and the patient receiving care."

She notes opposition has come from various arenas, including publicly funded institutions with particular religious affiliations that ask physicians — regardless of their personal beliefs — sign codes of ethics as conditions of employment.

British Columbia led the pack at 90 per cent approval, followed by Quebec (83 per cent), Alberta (82 per cent), Atlantic Canada (74 per cent), Ontario (72 per cent) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (68 per cent).

"If there's a privately funded hospital or hospice, of course they should have the right to set whatever views they want," says Morris. "But when we're talking about an organization that receives public funds, then how dare they impose their religious views and constrain, or really deny, the rights of Canadians?"

Morris also believes replacing the term "assisted suicide" with "assisted dying" would see even more support for the movement, due to the stigma associated with suicide.

Insight West's finding were almost static across the whole country, with British Columbia leading the pack at 90 per cent approval, followed by Quebec (83 per cent), Alberta (82 per cent), Atlantic Canada (74 per cent), Ontario (72 per cent) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (68 per cent).

Barring legal issues, Quebec's end-of-life law is set to take effect on Dec. 10, 2015, despite requests from Ottawa to postpone.

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