A majority of Albertans support physician-assisted dying and many even believe it should be more permissive than the what the Supreme Court ordered in its ruling, according to the results of two surveys released Thursday.
The surveys were released in advance of June 6 — the date the Supreme Court has set for legislatures to legalize medically assisted dying across Canada.
One survey found that four in five Albertans support physician-assisted dying, and the same number would consider the option for themselves if circumstances warranted.
The survey, which was conducted by ThinkHQ on behalf of the Alberta Medical Association, found overwhelming support for the government of Alberta's draft guidelines, with 77 per cent saying they either strongly or somewhat agree.
The guidelines require two physicians be consulted and patients to retain their capability to make decisions throughout the process.
Disagreement with federal legislation
Albertans also support allowing minors to choose physician-assisted death, even though it's currently not included in the planned federal legislation.
Over half of respondents to a public survey administered by the provincial government said people under 18 should be eligible for medically assisted death, provided they are mature enough to understand the consequences.
"Children should not be excluded from relief from irremediable grievous suffering," wrote one respondent.
The survey also found 70 per cent of respondents think patients can lose competence by the time the assisted-death is performed, while federal legislation says patients must retain competence throughout the entire application process.
The survey, which was held as part of consultations by the Alberta government, received 15,000 online responses between February and March. As the survey was open, it states that it might not represent general public opinion.
The ThinkHQ survey collected responses from 1,500 Albertans online in March. It was weighted to reflect demographic quotas, and adjusted for gender, age and regional distribution. It does not have a margin of error, but a probability sample of the same size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent.
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Here's a look at the state of Euthanasia laws in Canada and their history.
Suicide hasn't been a crime in Canada since 1972. (Shutterstock)
Doctor-assisted suicide is illegal, although the ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court will force Parliament to alter the law within one year. The Criminal Code of Canada states in section 241 that: "Every one who (a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years." (Alamy)
Passive euthanasia involves letting a patient die instead of prolonging life with medical measures. Passive euthanasia is legal in Canada. The decision is left in the hands of family or a designated proxy. Written wishes, including those found in living wills, do not have to be followed by family or a proxy. (Alamy)
Sue Rodriguez, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), launched a case asking the Supreme Court of Canada to allow her to end her own life on the grounds that the current law discriminated against her disability. Because suicide is legal in Canada and Rodriguez was unable to end her life because of a lack of mobility, she argued it was discriminatory to prevent her from ending her own life with the aid of another. The court refused her request in 1993, but one year later she ended her life anyway with the help of an unnamed doctor. (CP)
Robert Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of his severely disabled daughter Tracy. A lack of oxygen during Tracy's birth led to cerebral palsy and serious mental and physical disabilities, including seizures and the inability to walk or talk. Her father ended Tracy's life by placing her in his truck and connecting a hose to the vehicle's exhaust.The case led to a heated debate over euthanasia in Canada and two Supreme Court challenges. Latimer was granted day parole in 2008 and full parole in 2010. (CP)
Former Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde tried repeatedly to get legislation legalizing euthanasia in Canada passed. Bill C-407 and Bill C-384 were both aimed at making assisted suicide legal. C-384 was defeated in the House 228 to 59, with many Bloc MPs and a handful of members from all other parties voting for the legislation. Tetraplegic Tory MP Steven Fletcher, pictured, made the following statement after C-384 was defeated: "I would like to be recorded as abstaining on this bill. The reason is I believe end of life issues need to be debated more in our country. I believe that life should be the first choice but not the only choice and that we have to ensure that resources and supports are provided to Canadians so that choice is free. I believe, when all is said and done, the individual is ultimately responsible. I want to make this decision for myself, and if I cannot, I want my family to make the decision. I believe most Canadians, or many Canadians, feel the same. As William Henley said in his poem Invictus, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."(CP)