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Survey: Majority of Canadians reject expansion of assisted suicide



J-P Mauro - published on 02/24/23

More than half of Canadians say that Medical Assistance in Dying should not be offered to people with mental illnesses.

As Canadian legislators debate an expansion of the nation’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) program, a new survey has found low public support for the measures. Since 2016, MAiD has made assisted suicide an option for patients with terminal physical illnesses that create chronic and unavoidable pain.However, Bill-C39 would expand access to MAiD for patients with mental illnesses as well. 

The survey was run by the Angus Reid institute, which questioned some 1,800 Canadians of voting age. Support was somewhat high (61%) for the MAiD laws as they have stood since they were implemented in 2016. Be that as it may, the new bill does not share the same support, with only 3 in 10 (31%) approving of opening MAiD to the mentally ill. Furthermore, more than half of respondents (51%) said they do not support the bill. 

When asked about specific scenarios in which MAiD may be sought, Canadians’ views were varied. About two-thirds of respondents agreed that those dealing with chronic pain should be allowed to seek MAiD, but these levels fell to 23% when considering patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and 22% for those with depression. Overall, 65% of respondents said that patients should have to exhaust all other options before turning to MAiD.

The faith of respondents was also found to be a significant factor in how they answered the survey. Those who considered themselves “religiously committed” were far more likely to oppose MAiD for all criteria. Those who consider themselves “privately faithful” are equally opposed to mental health stipulations, but they also tend to be more open to MAiD for physical conditions. 

More than half (55%) of respondents also fear that the emphasis on MAiD would make the government slower to implement improvements to social services, a fear not shared by 36% of respondents. They also seem less concerned that expansions to MAiD may stymie growth to palliative care treatments, with more than 54% of respondents aged 54 and above not placing an emphasis on treating symptoms. 

Last week, the Canadian government introduced legislation that would prevent the new MAiD criteria from going into effect for another year. Rather than giving time for the opposition to debate the bill, however, the given reason for the delay is to allow health facilities to make adjustments before it takes effect

Detroit Catholic reports that Member of Parliament Ed Fast, of the Conservative Party, decried the bill as not following the will of the public. 

“My message to the government is that contrary to the justice minister’s assertions that there is a broad consensus of support in expanding MAiD to the mentally ill, it’s quite the opposite is actually true,” he said. “There is overwhelming opposition, not to MAiD itself, but the expansion of MAiD to vulnerable populations like the mentally ill. There is no consensus to move ahead right now.”

Read the full survey at the Angus Reid Institute.

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