CARP Poll: Majority support physician assisted suicide, better palliative care and improvement to the Quality of Death in Canada


TORONTO, ON: CARP members support physician assisted suicide if it were legal, more and better palliative care and improvement to the Quality of Death in Canada.

Seventy-one percent of the more than 3,200 respondents to the CARP End-Of-Life Care Poll support physician assisted suicide for those at the end of their lives (71%), and more than one third express this support in the strongest terms (“strongly support” – 37%). Further, they think that the decision about physician assisted suicide should be made between a patient and doctor only (52%), or by the patient alone (18%). A further 15% think the decision should be made with the assistance of a judge and virtually no members believe this decision should be made by the authorities only or the doctor only. Ten percent said they would never support physician assisted suicide.

“Once again, our members are out in front of policy makers. They are not afraid to talk about death and have very realistic expectations – especially about what they want and what they can expect from the current system. It’s time that policy makers start to work on improving the Quality of Death in Canada, by improving the availability of palliative care and home based options and dealing directly with how people want to deal with the end of their lives”, said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP.

These results line up with the Angus Reid survey results recently reported in the media that found that 77% of Quebecers supported a move to legalize euthanasia, and 75% of British Columbia residents did as well.
The Survey in the August 20, 2010 issue of CARP ActionOnline also polled members on where they want to spend their last days. While two thirds of members want to die at home, fewer than half this proportion (28%) actually expect to, and the plurality expect to die in a hospital or nursing home.

Finally, Canada scores poorly on the Economist Magazine’s “Quality of Death” index primarily because of the cost of end of-life care, even if we rank highly for the availability of pain-killing medicine.

The report notes that, “while the Canadian government has shown a heightened interest in recent years in improving access to palliative care, and hospitalization is 100 percent funded by the state, homecare may still be a considerable burden. A recent study in the journal Palliative Medicine found that Canadian families frequently shoulder 25 percent of the total cost of palliative care.”

The report also claims that Canadians, citizens and policy makers alike, are reluctant to discuss death openly. We may know how to prolong life medically, but comparatively, death is a taboo subject in Canada, which means improving end-of-life-care simply is not a healthcare priority. The size of the country and dispersion of the population also means that there is little or no palliative care across much of the country. However, although the report said that only 16 to 30 per cent of those who die receive specialized hospice or end-of-life care, CARP members reported that, in respect to the deaths in their own families, about two thirds had palliative care (67%), primarily in a hospice (61%) rather than at home (39%).

Overall, there was overwhelming support among the respondents for improvements to Canada’s position on the Quality of Death Index. Virtually all members agree with pursuing this goal (92%), and more than half express their opinion in the strongest terms (“agree strongly” – 57%).

Four areas of end-of-life-care were tested in evaluating the national ranking: Basic end-of-life healthcare environment, availability of end-of-life care, cost of end-of-life care, and quality of end-of-life care. Click here for full report.

More than 3200 CARP ActionOnline readers responded to this poll. The margin of error for a sample this size is plus or minus 1.7%, 19 times out of 20.

Read the Full CARP End of Life Care Poll Report

CARP is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to advocating for a New Vision of Aging for Canada, social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination. CARP seeks to ensure that the marketplace serves the needs and expectations of our generation and provides value-added benefits, products and services to our members. Through our network of chapters across Canada, CARP is dedicated to building a sense of community and shared values among our members in support of CARP’s mission.