Medical Assistance in Dying: Majority say religiously affiliated hospitals should not be forced to provide MAID

Medical Assistance in Dying: Majority say religiously affiliated hospitals should not be forced to provide MAID

One-quarter believe religiously opposed health-care facilities should be required to provide MAID onsite

October 17, 2023 – As Canada explores expanded access to medical assistance in dying (MAID), there is increased debate over balancing the Charter-guaranteed right to freedom of conscience for health-care practitioners and individual adults’ free decisions about their deaths.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Cardus finds there is little appetite from Canadians to force the provision of MAID at religiously affiliated institutions. In the case of a health-care facility affiliated with a religion which objects to MAID, three-in-five Canadians (58%) feel that if a patient requests a medically assisted death, they should be transferred elsewhere. One-quarter (24%) feel that the facility, despite its objection, should be forced to provide MAID.

Quebec is the only province in the country where less than a majority feel a religious-affiliated health-care facility should transfer the patient if they request MAID. Half of those living in Quebec (47%) believe this, while 35 per cent instead say the facility should be forced to provide MAID despite religious opposition, the most in the country.

At the same time, majorities of Canadians believe health-care practitioners should accommodate MAID requests despite religious or moral objection. Seven-in-ten (70%) say a doctor morally opposed to MAID should be required to make a referral if a patient asks for a medically assisted death. The rest, three-in-ten, feel that the doctor in such a position should not be compelled to pass the patient to a colleague.

Majorities across regions and demographics say referrals should be necessary in this scenario, but past CPC voters (43%) and 35- to 54-year-old men (42%) are more likely than others to believe doctors opposed to MAID should not have to suggest a willing MD.


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

About Cardus

Founded in 1974, Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.


  • MAID and religious-affiliated health-care facilities

  • MAID and the doctor’s dilemma


MAID and religious-affiliated health-care facilities

Earlier this year, a terminally ill B.C. woman entered palliative care at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver. After being approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID), the woman was unable to receive it at St. Paul’s because the hospital is affiliated with a Catholic health organization, which opposes MAID. Instead, she was transferred to another facility to receive a medically assisted death. Advocates are now looking at challenging in court the agreement between the B.C. provincial government and religious health organizations which allows their facilities to opt out of providing MAID.

Canadians are more than twice as likely to believe transferring a patient in this scenario (58%) is sufficient policy over forcing the health-care facility to provide MAID onsite (24%). Across the country, a majority of Canadians in all regions say a transfer in lieu of on-site MAID is adequate, except in Quebec, where fewer than half (47%) say this. One-third (35%) in Quebec believe the health-care facility should be required to provide MAID onsite, the most in the country:

Similar-sized majorities in all demographics believe transferring a patient is all that should be required of a religious-affiliated health-care facility if a patient there asks for MAID (see detailed tables).

There is also agreement across national party lines on this matter. Past Bloc Québécois voters are more divided, with two-in-five (38%) believing religious-affiliated health-care facilities should be forced to provide MAID onsite despite their moral objections (see detailed tables).

Those who say they are atheist, agnostic or have no religious identity are more likely (33%) than Christians (20%) to believe patients should not have to be transferred from religious health-care facilities to receive their MAID request. However, the majority view of all religious identities is that the patient should be transferred to another facility:

MAID and the doctor’s dilemma

In 2018, fewer than two years after medical assistance in dying (MAID) was first legalized in Canada, an Ontario court ruled that doctors who have moral or religious objections to treatments and procedures such as MAID were required to refer patients to a colleague who would provide the procedure. This followed a challenge from some doctors who argued that referring for procedures such as MAID violated their charter rights to freedom of religion and conscience.

Most Canadians agree with the ruling. Seven-in-ten say doctors who object to MAID should be required to refer their patient who asks for it to another doctor who will assist them. Three-in-ten disagree and believe a referral should not be forced. These data are statistically identical to figures seen in 2016, when the Angus Reid Institute first asked about MAID.


Majorities across the country agree with the Ontario court’s ruling, ranging from a high of 76 per cent of those in Quebec to a low of 63 per cent in Alberta, Manitoba and Atlantic Canada:

Men aged 35- to 54-years-old are the most likely (42%) demographic to believe a referral should not be required when a doctor who is morally opposed to MAID is asked to provide the procedure. However, those who believe the doctor should have to make a referral outweigh those that don’t in all age and gender groups:

Four-in-five past Liberal (80%) and NDP (85%) voters say doctors who are morally opposed to MAID should be obligated to make a referral to another doctor to provide the procedure. Three-quarters (75%) of those who voted Bloc Québécois in 2021 agree. Past CPC voters are more divided over the matter, but lean more to agreeing that a referral should be necessary (57%) than not (43%):

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Cardus conducted an online survey from Sept. 19-22, 2023 among a representative randomized sample of 1,872 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for jointly by ARI and Cardus. Detailed tables are found at the end of this release.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Bret Kavanaugh/Unsplash


Daniel Proussalidis, Director of Communications, Cardus: 613.899.5174

Jon Roe, Research Associate, ARI: 825.437.1147 @thejonroe