Legalising assisted suicide would heighten patients’ distress and prejudice their treatment, a group of senior palliative care doctors in Scotland have warned.
Writing in the Herald, 15 doctors raised concerns about a Bill currently being considered by Scotland’s Health and Sport Committee which would allow patients as young as 16 to end their lives, even if they are not terminally ill.
The letter said that they have “tens of thousands of patient-years experience” between them, and everyday “encounter patients and family members made vulnerable and frightened” by the suffering and distress of serious illness.
“Yet the demand for assisted suicide is tiny”, the doctors argued.
“Legalisation of assisted suicide would expose our patients to internal or external pressures to consider that option, creating a dilemma which would compound their distress and prejudice their treatment and its outcome”, they continued.
The doctors also criticised the broad scope of the Bill, which would mean patients with treatable conditions are eligible for assisted suicide.
The letter concluded by calling instead for even greater improvements to be made to Scotland’s “world-leading” palliative care.
Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee heard the final evidence session on the Bill yesterday.
MSPs will then vote on the principles of the Bill before it can progress to the next stage.
Dr Gordon MacDonald, Scotland’s parliamentary officer for Christian charity CARE, said: “What we’ve witnessed over the last few weeks is repeated and sustained criticism of this Bill from a whole variety of sources and for a range of reasons because it is so badly drafted.
“We’re not talking about one or two voices, we’re talking about leading experts in medicine and palliative care, top lawyers and experienced ethicists all expressing serious and genuine concerns.
“The fact of the matter is that this is a poorly written, badly constructed Bill and the sheer numbers of people who have criticised whole parts of it, quite aside from any moral or ethical objections, only highlight the problems with the legislation.”