Most (84%) Canadians Believe a Doctor Should be Able to Assist Someone Who is Terminally Ill and Suffering Unbearably to End their Life

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Toronto, ON – A new survey conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of Dying with Dignity Canada reveals that most Canadians believe a doctor should be able to provide assisted dying to Canadians under a variety of different scenarios.

In fact, more than eight in ten (84%) Canadians ‘agree’ (51% strongly/33% somewhat) that , as long as safeguards are in place, doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die. Fewer than one in ten (16) ‘disagree’ (8% strongly/8% somewhat) that doctors should provide this help if asked.

The results across various different demographics reveal strong support in letting doctors participate in assisted dying for those suffering:

  • Men (86% agree) slightly edge women (83%) in agreement that doctors should be able to provide this help if asked.
  • Young adults (ages 18-34, 85%) , middle-aged (ages 35-54, 83%) Canadians, and seniors (ages 55+, 85%) are equally as likely to show support for this issue.
  • Regionally speaking, Nova Scotians (89%), British Columbians (87%), and Ontarians (86%) most agree that a doctor should be able to help provide assistance in dying, ahead of those from Quebec (84%), Alberta (82%), Atlantic Canada excluding Nova Scotia (80%), and the Prairies (79%).
  • Canadians with a high school level education (87%) or some level of post-secondary education (85%) most agree, ahead of those who are university graduates (83%), while those without a high school education (76%) lag in agreement.
  • While slightly trending up, household income level has no significant change in agreement (less than $40,000 – 83%, between $40 to less than $60,000 – 83%, between $60,000 to less than $100,000 – 86%, $100,000 or more – 87%).
  • Community size does not seem to have an effect on agreement levels as those from rural areas (84%), small towns (85%), large cities (85%), and metropolitan centres (84%) cluster together.
  • Nine in ten (85%) regulated health care professionals agree that doctors should be a doctor should be able to provide this help in assisted dying if asked and within the appropriate safeguards.
  • There are high levels of support from both the religious and non-religious. In total 80% of all Christians support assisted dying, including 83% of Catholics. Nearly all atheist/agnostic (96%) and Canadians citing no religious identity (95%) show support for assisted dying.
  • Among members of the disabled community, agreement with this sentiment is high at nine in ten (85%).
  • Nine in ten (85%) Canadians who have been close with someone who has suffered terribly before dying agree that physicians should be able to provide this assistance.

As it stands, if a doctor assisted a terminally ill patient to die by prescribing or administering life-ending medication, the doctor would be charged with assisting a suicide. Most (78%) Canadians are ‘aware’ (42% strongly/36% somewhat) of these charges, while one in five (21%) indicate they are ‘not aware’ (8% not at all aware/13% not very aware). Seniors (84%) and Western Canadians (85% in Alberta, 84% in British Columbia) are most aware, while Quebecers (67%) are by far the least aware.

Thinking about other Canadians’ opinions towards assisted dying, many (39%) don’t claim to know others position on the issue. Among those that do, however, Canadians are twice as likely to believe other Canadians support (42%) assisted dying compared to oppose (19%).

Given various descriptions of health, nine in ten believe that a patient should have the right to choose assisted dying if they have a terminal illness causing unbearable suffering (88%) or they have a serious an incurable illness or condition (87%). Two in three (67%) believe a patient should have this right if a patient has a permanent or severe physical disability that impedes their quality of life.

Canadians were also posed four different scenarios and asked to gauge their support for different options ranging from a physician prescribing and administering life-ending medication to having a physician prescribe the life-ending medication and having a nurse or other licensed healthcare professional administer it.

While a healthy majority supported all options, having a physician prescribe and administer life-ending medication (79% vs. 21% oppose) and a physician prescribing such medication and administering it if the patient cannot take it themselves (79%vs. 21% oppose) receives the most support, followed by a physician prescribing the medication and having the patient take it themselves (76% vs. 24% oppose) and a physician prescribing the medication and having a nurse or other licensed health care professional administer it (68% vs. 32% oppose).

Other Thoughts on Assisted Dying in Canada…

  • Nine in ten (91%) Canadians ‘agree’ that a person should not be forced to endure drawn-out suffering and that medical care focused on the relief of symptoms, pain and stress of the seriously ill cannot always relieve patients of unbearable pain and suffering.
  • Nine in ten (88%) ‘agree’ (59% strongly/28% somewhat) that people should be able to decide for themselves when and how to die if they are terminally ill and their quality of life becomes intolerable, while just one in ten (12%) ‘disagrees’ (5% strongly/7% somewhat) with this premise.
  • A similar nine in ten (87%) ‘agree’ (59% strongly/28% somewhat) that doctors assisting a terminally ill person to end their life should not fear prosecution, while 13% ‘disagree’ (5% strongly/8% somewhat).
  • Most (91%) Canadians ‘agree’ (49% strongly/42% somewhat) that palliative care (medical care focused on the relief of symptoms, pain and stress of the seriously ill) cannot always relieve patients of unbearable pain and suffering. Just one in ten (9%) Canadians ‘disagree’ (2% strongly/7% somewhat) with this opinion.

For more information on this study, please visit the Dying With Dignity website:

These are some of the results of an Ipsos Reid survey conducted between August 21st to 29th, 2014 on behalf of Dying with Dignity Canada. The results are based on a sample of n=2,515 Canadian collected online via the Ipsos I-Say panel. The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a Bayesian credibility interval. In this case, the survey results are accurate to within +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had the entire population of Canadian adults been surveyed. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Sean Simpson
Vice President
Ipsos Reid
Public Affairs
(416) 572-4474

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada's market intelligence leader, the country's leading provider of public opinion research, and research partner for loyalty and forecasting and modelling insights. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 600 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in the country, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and online panels. Ipsos Reid's marketing research and public affairs practices offer the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada, all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, Ipsos Reid offers syndicated information or custom solutions across key sectors of the Canadian economy, including consumer packaged goods, financial services, automotive, retail, and technology & telecommunications. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group.

To learn more, please visit

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry.

With offices in 86 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,712,4 million (2 274 M$) in 2013.

Visit to learn more about Ipsos’ offerings and capabilities.

Most (84%) Canadians Believe a Doctor Should be Able to Assist Someone Who is Terminally Ill and Suffering Unbearably to End their Life


Sean Simpson
Vice President, Canada
Ipsos Public Affairs