Bringing in assisted suicide could see “death on demand” being introduced as a “valid treatment option”, the Free Church of Scotland has warned.
The church gave the caution in evidence to MSPs, ahead of an assisted suicide Bill which is being headed by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.
Under the plans, which were launched by the late Margo MacDonald, people as young as 16 with a terminal illness or progressive life-shortening condition would be allowed to tell their GP about their wish to die.
The church criticised the proposals as a “dangerous piece of legislation”, and called instead for better palliative care provision.
Free Church minister Revd Dr Donald MacDonald, who uses a wheelchair and has multiple sclerosis, warned the plans were “ill-thought out”.
He said there was a large difference between terminal and life-shortening conditions: “‘Terminal’ would normally indicate a life-expectancy of days, weeks or months, whereas ‘life-shortening’ could apply to a situation where there were many years of life expectancy.
“Thus illnesses and conditions such as diabetes, some forms of heart disease and lung disease, progressive multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, and in some cases, tetraplegia, would qualify in certain circumstances”, he said.
Revd MacDonald also commented that the proposals “would have an adverse effect on the lives of chronically ill and elderly infirm people, in these days of financial stringency and elder abuse”.
A church spokesman added: “We sincerely hope that MSPs will reject this dangerous piece of legislation.
“Rather they should be redoubling their efforts to make palliative care available to all who need it and encouraging greater community effort to care for the weak and vulnerable members of society right up to the end of life.”
The Free Church made its comments in evidence to the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, which is considering the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill.
Margo MacDonald tried to introduce similar proposals in 2010, but MSPs resoundingly rejected her legislation by 85 votes to 16.