Are Canadians for or against euthanasia and assisted suicide? Despite the media hype and the systematic, well-funded plan of Canadian pro-euthanasia groups to legalize euthanasia and assisted-suicide in Canada, the majority of Canadians waver significantly on this issue depending on the context.
The National Post published an article (December 16, 2014) that summarizes the findings of a poll conducted by Angus Reid of 1504 Canadians concerning the topic of euthanasia. The headline of the article (“‘Not a controversial issue in Canada anymore’: Majority support assisted suicide”), makes it sound like Canadians are for euthanasia and the issue of euthanasia is passé, but a reading of the article, reveals that the majority of Canadians are generally against euthanasia depending on the context. For example, when asked, “Should assisted suicide be permitted in the case of terminal illness and would rather end life sooner?” 82% responded with “yes.” Seventy-six percent said euthanasia should be permitted when a person is in great pain. So, based on these responses we can conclude that the majority of Canadians are for assisted suicide, right? Well, not so fast! When the same poll respondents were asked: “Should assisted suicide be permitted to control the time of death to make things easier to the family?” only 45% said “yes.” Likewise, only 41% agreed that an inmate serving a life sentence should be permitted to end his life by assisted suicide; only 35% agreed that a person experiencing multiple conditions like arthritis and diabetes and who wants to die should be permitted access to assisted suicide; only 33% of those polled said a person should be allowed access to assisted suicide when they are facing no hope for the future and find no meaning in their lives.
When it comes to the issue of euthanasia, a person’s response often depends on the context and understanding (or lack of understanding) of the situation. What does this mean for those of us who are working to bring dignity, compassion, care, and support to people facing challenging end of life issues? We need to continue to educate people on the moral and ethical issues surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide. We need to ask thought-provoking questions that get people to think through what they are really for and/or against when it comes to the matters of assisted suicide and euthanasia. We need to borrow a page from the pro-death camp by putting a face (and a person’s plight) to the discussion. We need to continue to keep these matters in our prayers.