Big picture missed in Canadian euthanasia poll

By Susan Martinuk

Susan Martinuk

A famous quote, attributed to 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, says: “There are three kinds of lies — lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Forget the lies and the damned lies for now. Let’s consider statistics, particularly as they relate to online public surveys. Statistics resulting from surveys can be problematic in that the answers pollsters get are directly correlated to the questions asked. That can be good or bad, depending on what perspective you are attempting to illuminate.

It’s something to keep in mind as current media and activist reports tell us that Canadians “overwhelmingly” support changing our laws to allow physician-assisted suicide.

An online survey on the public’s perception of dying with dignity was conducted by Ipsos Reid. It was commissioned by Dying with Dignity Canada (a group pushing for the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide) and therefore it is certain they had significant input (at minimum) into determining the wording of questions and the questions asked.

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