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Vast majority of Canadians in favour of assisted dying: poll

The Canadian Medical Association is calling for the creation of a national palliative care strategy to ensure people across the country have access to a high-quality, dignified end-of-life experience.

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Update: The Supreme Court has struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide. Read the full story.

More than 90 per cent of Canadians are in favour of assisted dying, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.

Billed as "the most comprehensive Canadian survey ever undertaken on the public's perception of dying with dignity," the poll found 91 per cent of people agree that a person should not be compelled to endure drawn-out suffering. As well, a large majority – 84 per cent – agreed with the statement that a "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."

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The poll of just over 2,500 Canadians was conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of Dying with Dignity, a national advocacy organization.

It found no "statistically significant" difference in support when it comes to age group, income level or community size.

Doctors, nurses and physiotherapists polled were 85 per cent in favour of assisted dying.

People who are severely disabled were also 85 per cent in favour of medically assisted dying.

Perhaps surprisingly, the poll found that only 42 per cent of respondents were aware that a majority of Canadians support assisted dying, while 39 per cent said they were not sure and 19 per cent said they believed most Canadians were opposed to it.

With the Supreme Court of Canada set to hear arguments on the Criminal Code prohibition against assisted dying, the poll also looked at support for changing the law to allow different scenarios.

A majority supported every scenario put forward in the poll: 76 per cent were in favour of a physician prescribing life-ending medication that patients takes themselves; 79 per cent were in favour of a a physician prescribing and administering life-ending medication; and a slightly lower proportion, 68 per cent, were in favour of a nurse or other licensed health care professional administering life-ending medication prescribed by a doctor.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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