8 in 10 Albertans support the right to medical assistance in dying

MARCH 21, 2019


New poll released by Dying with Dignity Canada demonstrates that the right to assisted dying is an issue that unites rather than divides Albertans

8 in 10 Albertans believe that publicly funded hospitals in Alberta should be required to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID) on their premises, finds a new poll commissioned by Dying With Dignity Canada.

These findings follow several stories released over the past several months which revealed that many publicly funded hospitals did not provide Medical Assistance in Dying services, and were not doing their duty to ensure that patients choosing to seek out Medical Assistance in Dying service were well-equipped and/or received meaningful referrals.

In response to these stories, on December 3rd, 2018, Covenant Health released a revised MAID policy. Under this new policy, witnessing and signing legal documents and assessments of eligibility can take place on Covenant Health sites. However, patients deemed eligible for MAID would still be transferred to other facilities. According to Alberta Health Services, as of February 28th, 2019 a total of 76 Albertans have been reported to have been forced to transfer out of their care facilities in order to access the service. 85% of these transfers were from religious facilities, of which Covenant Health is the largest operator. "Covenant Health provides the bulk of palliative care in this province, and the transfer of patients from institutions during this very private, personal and painful moment in their lives is a difficult problem which must be resolved," said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare.

Covenant Health has argued that their faith-based ethics should exempt them from providing any MAID services on-site. Notably however, Dying With Dignity's results show that religious Albertans across all affiliations are only marginally less supportive of the idea that publicly funded hospitals should be obliged to offer MAID services (72%) than non-religious Albertans (83%).

During Election 2019 Friends of Medicare is calling on all parties and candidates to state their position and provide viable solutions that will address the inequality of access which currently results from the varying interpretations of the MAID Legislation. "Albertans across the province, and from all walks of life are clear on their stance on this issue," states Azocar. "8 out of 10 Albertans have spoken loud and clear and it is up to those vying for our votes to listen, and show that they will provide the type of leadership that is humane and follows the intent of the federal legislation."