Disabled lives ‘undervalued’ by Scots assisted suicide plans

Fri, 16 Jan 2015

Legalising assisted suicide in Scotland would only reinforce society’s view that disabled people’s lives are “not worth living”, a disability rights campaigner has warned.

Writing for The Scotsman online, David Reilly noted that the assisted suicide Bill currently being looked at by MSPs would apply to “anybody with a potential ‘life-shortening condition’”.

He said, “this phrase is left wide open to interpretation and could include thousands of people”.

Independent lives

Reilly argued that “vital monies” need to be spent on tackling issues affecting disabled people and supporting them to “lead independent and fulfilled lives, rather than introducing legislation assisting them to die”.

“Society already undervalues the lives of disabled people and this kind of law would do nothing but compound society’s views that disabled lives are not worth living”, he explained.

He said that the introduction of a law helping disabled people to kill themselves at the same time the Scottish Government is funding anti-suicide campaigns reflects society’s negative view of disability.

Burden

“If disabled people had better access to the support they require, they would not feel a burden to others and could be supported to live fulfilled and productive lives”, he commented.

This week Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee heard evidence from medical and legal professionals on a Bill to allow patients as young as 16 to end their lives, even if they are not terminally ill.

Dr Francis Dunn, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, said that taking part in a process which “directly led to the patient’s death” is something “alien” to doctors.

Palliative care

And he raised concerns that, if the Bill became law, this might “reduce the incentive to find better cures and better palliative care treatments”.

“I feel that if this had come in, say, 20 years ago, it would have diminished the impetus on the palliative care movement”, he added.

The committee is set to hear evidence from ethicists, palliative care specialists and faith groups in the coming weeks.

The new Bill is being led by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, following the death of Margo MacDonald last year.