The Scottish Labour Party’s new leader, Jim Murphy, has expressed his opposition to assisted suicide, saying proposed legislation would open up “all sorts of possible situations to abuse”.
“People have the right to die with dignity, but not to have their lives deliberately shortened”, he remarked in an interview with the Scottish Catholic Observer.
Murphy, a former cabinet minister at Westminster, urged that people instead needed help to care for and comfort loved ones at the end of their lives.
The newly elected leader was commenting on his opposition to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which is being considered at Westminster, and a similar bill, led by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, which is before the Scottish Parliament.
Murphy, a Roman Catholic, also clarified his position on abortion and why it differed from that of his church.
He argued that while he respected the Roman Catholic Church’s right and need to take an absolute view on abortion, he took a different view.
He said: “The law must reflect that a woman’s painful decision to have an abortion has to be a matter for her conscience, not a matter for the Church”.
Earlier this week plans to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland for patients as young as 16, even if they are not terminally ill, were criticised by a leading forensic pathologist and members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.
Professor Anthony Busuttil, of Edinburgh University, said that legalisation would break a bond of trust between patients and doctors.
Christine Grahame, the convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, warned that the proposed legislation would put “unintended pressure” on those who are considering assisted suicide.
A spokesman for campaign group Care Not Killing said that legalising assisted suicide would be a “catastrophe in terms of how our society confronts illness and disability”.
In October last year, the group called on MSPs to oppose assisted suicide legislation calling it “unnecessary, unethical and uncontrollable”.