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Most Canadians want restrictions on assisted death

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — An Angus Reid poll commissioned by the educational prolife group LifeCanada shows most Canadians want assisted death restricted to cases where people face terminal illness.

The poll reveals most Canadians would not support the recommendations of the joint Parliamentary Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying that include: opening the way for minors to opt for euthanasia; allowing those with mental illness to receive an assisted death; and allowing for the euthanasia of elderly people with dementia if they had signed an advanced directive.

The study, conducted March 7 - 14, shows 50 per cent of Canadians believe the law should allow a doctor or nurse to use lethal means “only in grievous and irremediable circumstances, with strict limits.”

Ten per cent of Canadians say the law should not allow a doctor or nurse to use lethal means to kill a patient under any circumstances, while nine per cent say it should be allowed whenever a patient makes the request.

Thirty-one per cent of Canadians agreed the law “should allow a doctor or nurse to administer lethal means to end a patient’s life under various circumstances.”

Most Canadians would like to see euthanasia restricted to only the terminally ill (48 per cent) and chronically ill adults (31 per cent). Only 23 per cent of Canadians would support euthanasia for disabled or chronically ill minors, or teenagers.

Twenty-one per cent would support euthanasia for chronically depressed adults; while 20 per cent would support it for elderly people with dementia.

An overwhelming majority of Canadians, 66 per cent, do not believe medical professionals should be obligated to provide doctor-assisted death “if it is against their moral beliefs.”

Sixty-eight per cent also said religious institutions that provide end-of-life or palliative care should not be obligated to provide assisted death.

The poll also showed 65 per cent of Canadians believe their MPs should represent what their constituents believe on this matter, and only 26 per cent say it should be based on the MP’s personal conviction. Only nine per cent said MPs should vote their party’s position.

In addition to releasing the poll, LifeCanada has also posted suggestions on how Canadians can write their MPs, and inform themselves on dangers doctor-assisted death pose to vulnerable Canadians.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) sent out an emergency alert to its email list, urging not only political action, but prayer and fasting. In a tool box of suggestion action items at COLF urges Catholics to take part in the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s postcard campaign, to write their political representatives and to support conscience rights of physicians and other medical personnel.

On March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, a group of about 50 hastily organized by a young layman, Nicolas Carnogursky, gathered on Parliament Hill to pray the rosary and invoke the help of St. Joseph, the patron saint of Canada, in combatting euthanasia. Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast joined the rally and has brought up euthanasia in his pastoral message for Easter.

“A person contemplating assisted suicide often fears physical pain, does not want to be a burden on family or friends, recoils at the thought of being dependent on others for care and dreads the idea of dying alone,” he wrote. “These are genuine fears but as Catholic Christians we know that we have solutions for these anxieties grounded in our faith in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, and in reason.”

“With accessible palliative care we can manage pain and the supportive presence and prayers of family and friends comforts and alleviates the fear of being alone for those facing their final days and hours of life,” he said.

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