Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are We Ready To Have This Debate?

The last time I even hinted at the Liberals tackling this issue, it was met with a fairly surprising, what I found irrational reaction. That said, everyone is entitled to their perspective, so I found it enlightening. I support euthanasia from a moral standpoint, not blanket endorsement, but under certain circumstances. In Quebec, they have begun to try and address euthanasia in the political realm, which has spilled over to Ottawa, through the Bloc.

There is a new poll out, which I submit as a possible political argument, to underscore the moral argument. It would see, that Canadians overwhelming support euthanasia in certain instances:
63% support legalizing euthanasia; 24% are opposed

The numbers are more dramatic, when you look at the voting demographics. It would seem, the older you are, the more you support limited euthanasia, which is instructive when you consider who is most likely to vote:
18-34 age 53% support, 30% oppose
35-54 age 65% support 22% oppose
55+ 71% support 20%

Now, overlap those numbers with who is likely to vote, and you see a superfically compelling political angle.

When you break the numbers down regionally, you see further evidence of a political upside- for the Liberals specifically. Support is highest in Quebec, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. In Ontario, we see a 55%-30% split and in Alberta support stands at 48%, while 44% oppose. In every region of the country support outweighs, but the numbers are more pronounced electorally.

The numbers are particularly interesting because Canadians make clear distinctions what they deem acceptable and where they draw the line on euthanasia. I would submit, this makes a modest reform proposal palitable, particularly if it is very well defined:
-A patient is in a coma with little or no hope of waking. The patient had previously specified they wished to have their life terminated if they were ever to find themselves in this condition: 81% support, 13% oppose

-patient is terminally ill and will die in less than six months. The patient is expected to suffer a great deal of physical and mental anguish during that time: 78% support, 15% oppose

-A patient has a lifelong, but non-life threatening condition such as being quadriplegic and wishes to end his or her life: 36% support, 55% oppose

You can see a clear drop off, where we draw the line. You can also see staggeringly strong support for dealing with end of life issues. Opponents argue "let nature take its course" but anybody who has dealt with terminal illness knows, the amount of drugs involved, the assistance required to sustain, there is NOTHING natural about any of it, so let's dispense with that illusion.

I think it's time a political party stepped up and dealt with this issue that everyone whispers about. Canadians have strong, developed opinions, because many of us have dealt with them personally. To just ignore is somewhat cowardly, but also politically understandable, if that makes any sense. Again today, I'm reading about the lack of identity for the Liberal brand, the party desperately needs a signature stand that both defines it and denotes certain bravery. I would submit, the above numbers, like others before, show there is support in the land for anyone who dares stick their neck out a bit. That said, I expect nothing...


JimmE said...

Steve, You & I disagree on this issue but I do agree that nothing will happen.

Omar said...

You & I agree on this issue, but I do not agree that it's an issue the Liberals should pursue in an attempt to win votes among the young. The right to die plank? Not a winner.

Steve V said...

If you look, it's older voters that massively support euthanasia, so I'm not sure what you mean here Omar.

This isn't politically inspired, what I'm saying, we might want to reconsider the fear of this issue because of the politics involved. The public are clearly ahead of the politicians. Quebec has already begun the debate...

Omar said...

Yeah, my bad. After a reread, I messed the support numbers up.

While the public is clearly ahead of the politicians on this I'd hate to see the issue used by the Liberals (or the NDP for that matter) in an election campaign as I think it would be too easy for the Cons to hit them over the head with it. Obama's death panels comes to mind. Lets get back into office THEN do what's right regarding the right to die.

Steve V said...

You might be right, which is why I end off expecting nothing. There is a risk for sure, so as you say maybe better left for gov't. On the other hand, these numbers suggest an electorate that is more than ready for the discussion.

Dame said...

never put it in the Lib. platform.
no we are Not ready...

Koby said...

A promise to legalize marijuana would be an easier sell in terms of talking points and argumentation, but my god for political and policy reasons this is the right thing to do. One, the Liberals have to start acting like liberals again least the populace loose interest in them altogether. Two the Liberals are not going to win by playing it safe. The only hope they have of reestablishing themselves with Francophones in Quebec, for example, is by offering an aggressively secular and socially liberal agenda.

JimmE said...

The public have been treated to so many tragic stories of people ending/having their lives ended, and this poll reflects this.

See, I think I could devise a set of questions that would result in another outcome. This all assumes this is being done so nice and neat & tidy and we are 100% sure.

So who will do da Kill'n? Doctors? Doctors have an oath "To do no harm" so do we now empower you & me to do this on our own? Perhaps we need executioners?

If we can get some meds & do it our selves, what's to prevent me from taking things to the next stage on granny-for the insurance?

If this were to become the law we have to be used to the idea of people killing people as a good thing.

I know you think this is a good election issue, this poll is one snapshot. For what it's worth I think a party that runs on this issue will be euthanized at the polls

Steve V said...


I thought of the marijuana debate as well. What is fascinating, these numbers blow the marijuana numbers away, plus the demographic breakdown is much more palatable.


It's not one poll, so this isn't a one off. Every sample tells the same story. Again, I'm just throwing it out there, but I don't find your questions that problematic. The questions were quite clear, terminal illness, comas, so it wasn't some vague, undefined rules. The thing is, people are dealing with these issues every single day, it isn't abstract. Factor in an aging population, and this issue isn't going away.

Koby said...

Euthanasia, altough it is never called that, is already common place. What do you think is involved when someone is no longer given water and their feeding tube is removed? An official euthanasia policy is better than the death by dehydration and starvation policy we have now.

Steve V said...

Exactly. People that have a problem with euthanasia don't seem to realize there is nothing natural about pumping someone full of morphine because of pain, basically putting them in a coma, and waiting for death to arrive. Without going into details, I've lived terminal illness twice, intimately. I don't need any lessons from no one on what or what isn't humane or morally acceptable. I also know I'm not alone, and many people would be motivated to vote for someone who is bold enough to openly discuss what we already whisper about. I also know, calm, rational debate isn't a given...

Koby said...

"I thought of the marijuana debate as well. What is fascinating, these numbers blow the marijuana numbers away, plus the demographic breakdown is much more palatable."

The numbers are better, but anything involving the end or beginning of life is a philosophical mind field. I think it is the right thing to do and the numbers suggest it is political winner, but you will hear good persuasive arguments from both sides. The marijuana issue, on the other hand, is like SSM. The arguments on the other side suck. SSM numbers looked like they would work for the Conservatives, but they were badly hurt by trotting out dumb arguments day after day after day. It is imporatant to look at not only the numbers but to game out how an issue will play out over months of debate.

Steve V said...

I hear you, and I'm not necessarily saying it is wise to put this in a platform. I would say however, that we have a real world debate going on in Quebec right now, so it can serve as a bit of a template.

Really, this issue has the potential to go off the rails, so I can understand the hesitation. Really just throwing it out, more than pounding the table.

Kirk said...

This support reminds me of the support abolishing the LGR had in polls before the issue had a more complete public airing.

There are a lot of practical problems with a real life euthanasia law and a lot of authoritative organizations that will oppose it.

A true end of life policy that includes palliative care not just euthanasia is needed but not one that just advocates killing granny.