Most Canadians Back Status Quo on Medical Assistance in Dying

Views are more nuanced on expanding the guidelines beyond “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions.

Vancouver, BC [May 5, 2023] – More than seven-in-ten Canadians believe the country has the right policies in place to allow people to seek medical assistance in dying, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 73% of Canadians (down three points since a similar Research Co. poll conducted in January 2021) are in favour of the practice under the current federal guidelines:

  • Being eligible for health services funded by the federal government, or a province or territory (or during the applicable minimum period of residence or waiting period for eligibility).
  • Being at least 18 years old and mentally competent.
  • Having a grievous and irremediable medical condition.
  • Making a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying that is not the result of outside pressure or influence.
  • Giving informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying.

Compared to January 2021, there is little movement when Canadians are asked about their personal feelings on this issue. Almost three-in-five (58%, =) think medical assistance in dying should be allowed, but only under specific circumstances.

One-in-five Canadians (20%, =) believe medical assistance in dying should always be allowed, regardless of who requests it, while 12% (+1) believe it should never be permitted.

In Alberta, almost one-in-five residents (19%) would prefer to ban medical assistance in dying. In Atlantic Canada, almost three-in-ten residents (28%) think the practice should be available to anyone.

Almost half of Canadians (48%, +5) are satisfied with the regulations that are currently in place in the country to manage the issue of medical assistance in dying, while 27% (+1) are dissatisfied and 25% (-6) are undecided.

Satisfaction with the existing guidelines related to medical assistance in dying is highest in Quebec (53%), followed by British Columbia (52%), Ontario (46%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (also 46%), Atlantic Canada (44%) and Alberta (40%).

At this point, only an adult with a grievous and irremediable medical condition can seek medical assistance in dying in Canada. Respondents were asked if people should be able to seek medical assistance in dying because of five different reasons.

Half of Canadians would agree to allow adults in Canada to seek medical assistance in dying due to an inability to receive medical treatment (51%) or a disability (50%). Fewer than three-in-ten would consent to expand the guidelines to include homelessness (28%) or poverty (27%) as reasons to seek medical assistance in dying.

Canadians are split when pondering if mental illness should be a justification for an adult to seek medical assistance in dying: 43% support this idea, while 45% are opposed. The federal government has delayed a final decision for eligibility related to mental illness until March 2024.

Just over two-in-five Canadians (42%) think people who help a person to commit suicide should be prosecuted, while just over a third (34%) disagree and 23% are undecided.

“More than half of Canadians aged 18-to-34 (52%) think counselling a person to end their lives should continue to be a crime,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “Fewer Canadians aged 35-to-54 (41%) and aged 55 and over (34%) hold the same view.”

When asked about the appropriate punishment for a parent who is found guilty of assisting a terminally ill son or daughter to die, one-in-four Canadians (24%) select no penalty at all.

Fewer than one-in-ten Canadians (8%) believe this action warrants a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, while 29% would consent to a prison sentence at the discretion of a judge, and 14% would deal with it through a fine, but no time in prison.

Methodology: Results are based on an online study conducted from April 22 to April 24, 2023, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Find our data tables here and download the press release here. 

For more information on this poll, please contact:

Mario Canseco, President, Research Co.