July 11, 2012
For the first time, The United Church Observer, an award-winning independent magazine geared to members of Canada's largest Protestant denomination, asked Canadians at large, as well as its readers, to weigh in on its annual opinion survey. The results of the "Life and Death Decisions" survey find that the magazine's churchgoing readers are far more likely to support physician-assisted suicide in controlled situations than Canadians at large. An example: 76 percent of readers said they support a physician ending the life of a consenting terminally ill patient with a lethal dose of medication, compared to 59 percent of the general public.
"We found that United Church Observer readers are more open than members of the general public to situations in which euthanasia and assisted suicide are acceptable," said Jane Armstrong, of Jane Armstrong Research Associates, the Toronto-based firm that conducted the survey. "Such openness may surprise and enlighten those who think that belonging to a faith community would necessarily lead to a different conclusion."
Recent headlines, including the B.C. court ruling on assisted suicide and the upcoming Supreme Court of Canada hearing on euthanasia, sparked strong opinions from the nearly 2,000 people surveyed.
"Life and death issues are vitally important to all Canadians, but especially faith communities," said Observer editor David Wilson. "We suspected there might be differences between churchgoing readers and the general public on life-ending interventions. Frankly, we are very surprised to see our readers tracking so strongly in support of them."
Startling gaps between readers and non-readers were also evident in questions addressing early-life issues such as genetic testing of embryos, sex selection, surrogacy and abortion. For example, 80 percent of the magazine's readers support abortion if a woman's mental health is seriously threatened compared to 65 percent of Canadians at large.
More results and analysis of The United Church Observer's "Life and Death Decisions" survey are covered in a 12-page report in the magazine's July/August issue and on its website (www.ucobserver.org). The website also features an animated documentary showing key findings. The "Life and Death Decisions" survey was supported by a grant from the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
With roots dating back to 1829, The United Church Observer is an independently incorporated magazine that is affiliated with but is not an official voice of The United Church of Canada. This spring, The United Church Observer won 23 awards from the Canadian Church Press for work published in 2011. The magazine also won 19 awards from the Associated Church Press, the oldest interdenominational religious press association in North America.
Video with caption: "Video: The United Church Observer Survey video". Video available at: http://www.youtube.com/v/yyfrlMuxm40?version=3&hl=en_US
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