Ottawa Citizen

Majority of Canadians want to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, poll shows

- BY JULIET O'NEILL

Seven in 10 Canadians believe doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients should be legal, says a new poll.

The Ipsos Reid survey for CanWest Global was conducted June 5-7, just after the release from prison of American Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a well-known champion of assisted suicide.

The poll says 71 per cent of Canadians agree that it should be legal for a doctor to assist in the death of a terminally ill patient.

And 76 per cent agree with the “right to die” concept for individual­s who want to die before enduring the full course of a deadly illness.

The numbers are virtually identical to 14 years ago when Sue Rodriguez, a British Columbia woman suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease — more properly known as amyotrophi­c lateral sclerosis, fought unsuccessf­ully to have the law against aiding and abetting suicide struck down.

The telephone poll of 1,005 adults is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

It took place within days of Dr. Kevorkian being paroled after serving eight years of a prison sentence for second-degree murder.

Dr. Kevorkian has said he helped more than 100 people die by lethal drug injections. In the case that landed him in prison, he had videotaped such a death and dared the authoritie­s to come after him.

The poll showed the highest level of support for doctor-assisted suicide is 84 per cent in Quebec, and the lowest is 61 per cent in Alberta.

Similarly, support for the concept of right to die is highest in Quebec at 87 per cent and lowest in Alberta at 66 per cent.

Canadians in rural setting settings (31 per cent) are more likely than those in urban settings (24 per cent) to say that doctor-assisted suicide should be illegal.

The 76 per cent who support the concept of the right to die includes 49 per cent who strongly support it and 27 per cent who somewhat support it. Just 21 per cent strongly oppose it.

Those with a university degree (79 per cent) are more likely to support the right to die, than those without a high school diploma (38 per cent). And men (78 per cent) are slightly more likely than women (74 per cent) to support the concept of people having the right to die.

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