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Keywords:

  • assisted suicide;
  • euthanasia;
  • hastened death;
  • population survey;
  • public opinion poll

Abstract

A research study was conducted to determine public opinion in Alberta, a Canadian province, on the controversial topic of death hastening. Questions on the right to hastened death, end-of-life plans and end-of-life experiences were included in the Population Research Laboratory’s annual 2010 health-care telephone survey, with 1203 adults providing results relatively representative of Albertans. Of all 1203, 72.6% said yes to the question: ‘Should dying adults be able to request and get help from others to end their life early, in other words, this is a request for assisted suicide’? Among all who provided an answer, 36.8% indicated ‘yes, every competent adult should have this right’ and 40.6% indicated ‘yes, but it should be allowed only in certain cases or situations’. Over 50% of respondents in all but one socio-demographic population sub-group (Religious-other) were supportive of the right to hastened death. However, multinomial regression analysis revealed that the experiences of deciding to euthanise a pet/animal and developing or planning to develop an advance directive predicted support, while self-reported religiosity predicted non-support. Finding majority public support for death hastening suggests that legalisation could potentially occur in the future; but with this policy first requiring a careful consideration of the model of assisted suicide or euthanasia that best protects people who are highly vulnerable to despair and suffering near the end of life.