The polling firm Leger found 86 per cent of survey respondents agreed that people with a serious, degenerative and incurable disease should be able to request and obtain medical assistance in dying, in a Jan. 23, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Survey finds support among Canadians for broader assisted-dying law

OTTAWA — As the federal government moves to revise the law on assisted dying, new survey results suggest most Canadians support medical help to end suffering even when a natural death is some time away.

In a web survey conducted this month for The Canadian Press, polling firm Leger found 86 per cent of respondents agreed that people with a serious, degenerative and incurable disease should be able to request and obtain medical assistance in dying.

Seventy-four per cent of those who took part said medical assistance in dying should be accessible to all people with incurable diseases, even if their death is not fast approaching.

Agreement with this notion of a broader assisted-dying regime ranged from 66 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to 84 per cent in Quebec.

There was also little variation among people who identified as supporters of the three main federal parties.

The results come as the Trudeau government works to comply with a Superior Court of Quebec ruling that concluded it is unconstitutional to allow only Canadians who are already near death to seek medical help to end their lives.

“Based on these numbers, it’s all green lights for the federal government to move ahead,” said Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque.

The survey was conducted Jan. 17 to 21 among 1,552 Canadians eligible to vote who were randomly recruited from an online panel. Since polls created from Internet panels are not random samples, however, the survey can’t be assigned a margin of error.

The polling firm says that using data from the 2016 census, results were weighted according to age, gender, mother tongue, region and level of education in order to ensure a representative sample of the population.

The Quebec court gave the government until March 11 to amend the current law, which took effect four years ago following a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the previous prohibition on doctor-assisted death.

The government is seeking views through an online questionnaire, closing Jan. 27, on how the law should be changed.

Justice Minister David Lametti, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Carla Qualtrough, the minister for disability inclusion, are also consulting key voices at roundtables and other meetings.

The Leger poll yielded some views on questions the government has asked Canadians to ponder.

For instance, 74 per cent of respondents said people should be allowed to express an advance wish for medical assistance in dying if one day they should be diagnosed with a serious, degenerative and incurable disease.

Seventy-three per cent agreed with the option of making an advance request for help ending their lives, using an official application form, as soon as a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and is still lucid.

Just under half of respondents said the current 10-day period of reflection between requesting and receiving a medically assisted death should be increased.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2020.

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