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CMAJ. 1993 Jun 1;148(11):1921-6.

Alberta euthanasia survey: 1. Physicians' opinions about the morality and legalization of active euthanasia.

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  • 1Office of Medical Bioethics, University of Calgary, Alta.



To ascertain the opinions of a sample of Alberta physicians about the morality and legalization of active euthanasia, the determinants of these opinions and the frequency and sources of requests for assistance in active euthanasia.


Cross-sectional survey of a random sample of Alberta physicians, grouped by site and type of practice.




A total of 2002 (46%) of the licensed physicians in Alberta were mailed a 38-item questionnaire in May through July 1991; usable responses were returned by 1391 (69%).


Of the respondents 44% did believe that it is sometimes right to practice active euthanasia; 46% did not. Moral acceptance of active euthanasia correlated with type of practice and religious affiliation and activity. In all, 28% of the physicians stated that they would practice active euthanasia if it were legalized, and 51% indicated that they would not. These opinions were significantly related to sex, religious affiliation and activity, and country of graduation. Just over half (51%) of the respondents stated that the law should be changed to permit patients to request active euthanasia. Requests (usually from patients) were reportedly received by 19% of the physicians, 78% of whom received fewer than five.


This survey revealed severely disparate opinions among Alberta physicians about the morality of active euthanasia. In particular, religious affiliation and activity were associated with the polarized opinions. The desire for active euthanasia, as inferred from requests by patients, was not frequent. Overall, there was no strong support expressed by the physicians for the personal practice of legalized active euthanasia. These data will be vital to those involved in health education and public policy formation about active euthanasia in Alberta and the rest of Canada.

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