Scotland remains steadfastly opposed to a controversial Bill which would legalise assisted suicide in the nation, according to the responses of a Holyrood consultation.
The End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, would allow the terminally ill and people who are “permanently physically incapacitated” to seek assistance in ending their lives.
But a public consultation on the controversial Bill has revealed that a staggering 86 per cent of the consultation’s respondents, some 601 people and organisations, were opposed to the Bill.
Gordon MacDonlad, Public Policy Officer for the pro-life group Care Not Killing Scotland, welcomed the response, saying: “We are very pleased there has been an overwhelming body of evidence against the Bill”.
One of the most common objections raised by the respondents was that the Bill, if passed, would allow children as young as 16 to commit suicide.
The Church of Scotland was among a number of groups who cautioned that 16-year-olds, who are considered too young to drink or drive, are not “emotionally mature” enough to make such decisions.
And critics also warned that legalising assisted suicide would devalue human life, and betray the very reasons that many medics enter their profession.
The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics cautioned: “Legalising euthanasia would mean that society would accept that some individuals can actually lose their inherent human dignity and have lives which no longer have any worth, meaning or value.
“It would give the message that human dignity is only based on subjective choices and decisions and whether a life meets certain quality standards.”
And the British Medical Association cautioned that the Bill “went against the very reasons many medical professionals went into medicine and to the role of a doctor”.
But despite the opposition Miss MacDonald remains defiant.
Miss MacDonald said: “There is nothing new in the objections posted here. I am still absolutely convinced that, if you took an opinion poll of the general public, two thirds would be in favour of the Bill.”
The Bill is currently being examined by a Holyrood committee which met yesterday to discuss the responses, but it is not expected to begin taking evidence from witnesses until the autumn.
The consultation responses came from a variety of medics, religious groups and members of the general public, and just 39 of the respondents supported the Bill.
In April 16 palliative care specialists wrote an open letter to The Times newspaper, and warned that the Bill could have a devastating effect on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
The medics warned that the Bill “sends a message to all disabled people and terminally-ill patients that somehow because they are dependent on others they are of less value to our society and so may feel that they ought to choose to bring forward the time of their death.”
They also cautioned that “the proposed Bill may put pressure on some vulnerable people to make a choice they do not wish to make.”
And earlier this month it was revealed that an assisted suicide advocate had been appointed as the sole adviser to the Holyrood committee responsible for examining the Bill that would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.