Three-quarters of British Columbians support euthanasia, and more than half recommend decriminalizing assisted suicide, according to an Angus Reid Public Poll published Monday.
The online survey compiled the opinions of 1,003 Canadian adults, with Quebec and B.C. showing the highest support for euthanasia, respectively.
Nationally, 85 per cent of Canadian respondents believe legalizing euthanasia would allow an opportunity for suffering people to ease their pain, in addition to establishing clearer regulations for doctors with end-of-life decisions.
Further, two-thirds of Canadians agreed that legalizing euthanasia would not send the message that the lives of the sick or disabled are less valuable.
Jaideep Mukerji, public affairs vice president for Angus Reid, said the differences amongst the provinces showed interesting variations. "In Quebec, where there is a much stronger political debate surrounding euthanasia, it was interesting to note that the poll indicated that the provincial result was nearly 10 points higher than the national average," he said.
Cheryl M. Eckstein is an anti-euthanasia activist and president of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Despite her status as a chronic pain patient, which went undiagnosed for months, Eckstein remains a staunch opponent to assisted suicide. She believes the latest poll revealed a lack of public understanding on the topic of euthanasia.
"There isn't a lot of information about what is euthanasia," she said. "Some people don't really understand what it is. They think euthanasia is the same as pulling the plug."
Regardless of public misconceptions, the poll established that 50 per cent of British Columbians agree there should be no penalty applied to a parent found guilty of assisting the death of a terminally ill child, whereas only a third of Ontarians and Albertans felt the same way. Currently in Canada, it is a crime to counsel or aid someone with suicide, punishable by a 14-year prison sentence.
Ms. Eckstein said the majority of polls are misrepresentative and fail to take into account the feelings of the disabled community.
"The people who are answering [these polls]are the worried - well, people who are healthy," she said. "When they see somebody in a wheelchair or see someone needing help, they think "I wouldn't want to live like that, or suffer like that." But that doesn't get to the heart of what euthanasia means."