Canadians Deserve the Best in Palliative Care and the Freedom to Choose Legalized Physician-Assisted Dying

    A statement from Donald Babey, Executive Director, Dying With Dignity
    Canada, in response to the published study in Health Psychology on
    Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide in Palliative Cancer Care

    TORONTO, June 7 /CNW/ - Excellence in palliative care and the right to
have physician-assisted dying are not mutually exclusive.
    Dying With Dignity Canada fully supports the concept that all Canadians,
regardless of where they live or their socio-economic circumstances, need
access to well-funded, well-managed and broadly-accessible palliative care,
should they need it and wish to have it. It is an important part of a holistic
healthcare system and must be a priority.
    However, we also believe it is equally important that, under very
specific circumstances, Canadians have the right to choose physician-assisted
dying when they determine their quality of life to be unacceptable.
    It would seem that based on the recent large-scale study published in the
journal Health Psychology, that a significant majority of people who have an
intimate knowledge of the dying process, and its personal impact, agree that
this option should be a legal alternative for them.
    63% of dying cancer patients receiving palliative care believe that they
should have the right to physician-assisted dying. This is not to say that
these individuals are not receiving good palliative care. What it is saying is
that even with good palliative care available, Canadians still want choice.
    We should not be misled into believing that attitudes toward choice in
dying are different for the terminally ill versus the general population. The
lead researcher in this study says the attitudes reflected by participants
mirror the level of support among Canadians in general. Certainly several
reputable public opinion polls would support that conclusion as well. The most
recent Gallup poll in January 2002 showed that 79% of Canadians support
physician-assisted dying.
    As a society, we believe in and value freedom of choice. It is part of
the Canadian culture and it is one of the tenets that make us proud.
    Whether it is the freedom to choose how to practice or celebrate our
spiritual beliefs, the freedom to participate in democratic elections, or the
freedom to speak our minds without fear of reprisal, enjoying these choices in
life is our protected right.
    So why are Canadians denied the same freedom of choice at the end of life
to ensure that we can die with the same dignity and comfort with which we
    A great question for our elected officials and for our medical
professionals, and a great question for us all, I would say.
    Choice is an interesting word. It means just that - you can choose to
exercise an option or you can choose not to exercise an option. So enacting a
legalized option for individuals wishing to have physician-assisted dying in
no way authorizes that option for anyone who doesn't choose it. Nor should it
stop individuals from choosing palliative care alone as their preferred
    Dying With Dignity Canada - and the majority of Canadians - support
choice in this very important matter. This newest study is further proof that
change is needed.
    We call on our elected officials to immediately open an informed, mature
and candid dialogue on this issue - free of emotional propaganda or political
idealism - to determine how best to enact this right for all Canadians.

For further information:

For further information: Donald Babey, Executive Director, Dying With
Dignity Canada, (416) 486-3998 x 22, 1-800-495-6156,,

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Dying With Dignity Canada

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