Less than half of Canadians support assisted dying for mental disorders: poll

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Canadians appear uncertain about extending physician-assisted dying to children or people with mental disorders, new poll suggests public not as galvanized around MAID as government seeks expand eligibility.

Just over half, 51%, of Postmedia-Léger poll respondents said they would support expanding medical assistance in dying to a mature minor under the age of 18 with an incurable disease who a “certain level of maturity and decision-making capacity”. ”

Less than half (45 percent) supported extending MAID to adults diagnosed with serious mental illness, which in less than a year, in March 2023, will become legally permitted in Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada first ruled in 2015 that Canada’s laws against medical assistance in dying are unconstitutional. The Liberals responded with legislation in 2016 that allowed MAID in cases where death from a physical condition was reasonably foreseeable and the person’s suffering was intolerable.

The law has since been extended to those not at imminent risk of dying, while a parliamentary committee examining the issue of mental illness, as well as mature minors and advance requests for assisted dying, is to present its final report to the government. in October.

Twenty-three percent of respondents to the Léger poll opposed extending MAID to mature minors, while 25 percent answered “I don’t know”.

The numbers were similar (23% opposed, 32% undecided) for MAID for people with serious mental illness.

MAID for those reasonably foreseeable of death has historically enjoyed high support, with polls conducted in 2014 and 2015 showing support in the mid-1970s, said Andrew Enns, executive vice president at Leger.

“I would describe support for the new proposals as cautious or tacit, but the high number of ‘don’t know’ responses suggests some uncertainty among Canadians, as well as an indication that discussion around these new policies is not widespread. in the whole population. “, Enns said. “Awareness can be low.”

“There’s nothing here to suggest that any of these (MAID policies under consideration) are horribly wrong,” Enns said. “There is support to continue the conversation. But I (also) don’t think there’s anything here that says, “That’s a slam-dunk, go for it.”

Tory MPs have called on the Liberal government to halt plans to allow MAID for adults whose only underlying illness is a mental disorder, arguing it is ‘unacceptable’ and ‘dangerous’ to rush expansion which will make Canada one of the most permissive jurisdictions in the world. the world.

In the new poll, the sharpest divide was at the political level, with conservative voters least likely to support MAID for mature minors (43%) or those with mental health issues (42% support).

Support for extending MAID to competent youth under 18 was highest in Quebec, at 65%, compared to the rest of Canada (47%). “Quebec has been a bit more open to this (euthanasia) than English Canada,” Enns said.

Overall, only four in 10 respondents said they would support a mature minor’s right to opt for MAID even if their parent or guardian opposed the decision.

Four in 10 said they would support parents’ right to seek MAID for their terminally ill child, “even if the child was unable to express his or her opinion about the decision”.

Support was strongest for people who fear losing their mental capacity due to a brain disease like Alzheimer’s to apply for MAID in advance. About two-thirds of respondents (65%) said they support advance requests for worsening cognitive impairment. “It’s something we’re all a little bit terrified of, both for us and for our parents,” Enns said.

The issues around MAID for mental illness are complex and nuanced and cannot be summed up in a “pretty blunt” yes/no/don’t know answer, he said.

“If I’m a policy maker looking at this data, I would interpret it as, ‘OK, it’s possible we could create rules that would allow someone with severe mental illness to access MAID. But we have to put in place a framework, we have to put in place certain criteria, so that the public feels more comfortable with this type of policy.

The Leger poll surveyed 1,501 online panelists from June 30 to July 3. As an online survey, traditional margins of error don’t apply, according to Leger. If the data had been collected using a random sample, the margin of error would be plus or minus 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2022

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