A majority of Quebec's medical specialists are in favour of legalizing euthanasia and believe the public also supports the idea, according to an Ipsos Descarie poll released Tuesday.
Of 2,025 medical specialists who answered a poll on the subject, 75 per cent said they were "certainly" or "probably" in favour of legalizing euthanasia, as long as the practice were strictly regulated.
The president of the federation of medical specialists, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, said doctors already see some form of euthanasia in the course of their work.
"Eighty one per cent of doctors do see the practice of euthanasia given the circumstances in their practice," Barrette said. "They hear their patients, they see their patients, asking for it."
The federation said Quebec society is overdue to hold a debate on the issue.
Barrette says the results of the survey prove that the specialists are in step with Quebec society.
A recent Angus Reid poll found that 77 per cent of Quebecers support the move to legalize euthanasia.
Barrette says the debate over euthanasia is similar to the one 20 years surrounding legal access to abortion.
He said doctors hesitated to perform abortions despite the wishes of the public.
"Society was ahead," he said. "Doctors came after, and then governments legislated much later after [the] Superior Court had to rule [ on the issue]," he said.
A clear law on euthanasia is needed, Barrette said.
Only when guidelines are in place can doctors, patients and their families make an informed decision on the course of treatment for someone who is terminally ill, he said.
The Ipsos Descarie survey was conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 15, 2009, and covered 8,717 active medical specialists who are members of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec. Of these, 2,025 answered the survey: 1,734 via Internet, and 291 by mail. The response rate was 22 per cent for those who did the survey online and 30 per cent for those who did it by mail.
The margin of error was 1.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.