Federal Euthanasia Survey Results: Support for Stronger Safeguards



May 15, 2020

Earlier this year, we encouraged you to fill out the federal government’s survey about Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID). The results are in and give reason for both concern and encouragement.

Those of you who completed the survey will remember that the first question asked, “Do you think the current safeguards would prevent abuse, pressure, or other kinds of misuse of MAID after eligibility is broadened to people whose death is not reasonably foreseeable?” This basically asks whether we can expand eligibility for MAID to more people without tightening up the law at all. About 73% of respondents answered that YES, they are confident that the current safeguards are sufficient.

In the answers that follow, however, things get interesting.

After the initial question, the survey asked respondents to rank the importance of possible additional safeguards. People overwhelmingly supported many safeguards that our current law lacks. Here are the percentages of people who affirmed the importance of several proposed safeguards (by selecting slightly important, important, fairly important, or very important in the survey):

  • 74% think those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable should be given more than 10 days to think about their decision.
  • 80% think it’s important that all other reasonable treatment options for relief of suffering be explored and tried before going ahead with euthanasia.
  • 75% think a psychological assessment should be necessary to evaluate a patient’s capacity to consent.
  • More than 90% think palliative care, social support, and counselling should all be made available, and the patient well informed of their options in these areas.

What does this mean?

It’s not that Canadians don’t care about those seeking medically assisted death – it’s that they don’t understand what they claim to support.  All of the safeguards recognized as important are indeed important, and yet they are lacking in our current law.

If the survey had listed Canada’s current safeguards upfront, or if the first question were placed last instead, the results could have been dramatically different. Most realize that 10 days is not an adequate amount of time to make this irreversible decision. Most realize that counselling and psychological assessments should be mandatory. Once people realize that loneliness or a lack of access to palliative care may be a major reason for seeking MAID, they want people to be offered better social supports.

So yes, 73% of Canadians started the survey by saying that the current safeguards were sufficient. But the other data demonstrate that current safeguards do not meet respondents’ expectations. Those who follow the We Need a Law campaign will have seen this scenario play out before: the majority of Canadians say they support the status quo on abortion in Canada, while surveys show that 80% are unaware that Canada has no abortion laws.

Ignorance and opportunity

This survey shows us two things: first, that people are not well informed about the current legal framework around MAID in Canada, and second, that if they were informed, they would not support the status quo. This should encourage all of us to speak up! We DO know the status quo and its flaws.

Educating others, by sharing the Care Not Kill website or the information it contains, can literally make the difference between life and death. MAID is legal in Canada, but results like those from this survey show that the discussion is far from a closed door. There were certainly areas in the survey where a majority agreed with loosened restrictions, such as allowing for advance directives for those with dementia. But, overall, the survey results show strong support for increased safeguards around the deliberate killing of patients by physicians.

This should cause us to thank God and prayerfully redouble our efforts to engage our culture in a discussion about the value of life, the meaning in suffering, the timing of death, and the God who rules over it all.

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