Paralympic legend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has warned that the move to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland would make identifying “another Dr Harold Shipman” incredibly difficult.
The former athlete, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, said: “All too often the assumption is made by those who are in robust health, that terminal illness is something unbearable or if you are disabled you would be better off dead.”
If passed, Liam McArthur MSP’s Assisted Dying (Scotland) Bill would remove legal protections for patients who are believed to be terminally ill.
‘Duty to die’
Writing in The Times, the eleven-time Paralympic gold medallist described the “significant” push for introducing assisted suicide.
She stressed: “While on the surface it is wrapped in words such as ‘dignity’, and talk of people ‘suffering’, the call for a right to die can too easily become a ‘duty to die’.”
She warned how “another Dr Harold Shipman, who killed 250 patients from the 1970s to the 1990s” could be “incredibly difficult to identify” under the proposed legislation.
While on the surface it is wrapped in words such as ‘dignity’, and talk of people ‘suffering’, the call for a right to die can too easily become a ‘duty to die’.
Addressing the perceptions surrounding assisted suicide, Lady Grey-Thompson stressed: “People assume that if they choose assisted dying then there is some type of Hollywood death where you just slip away with your loved ones around you.
“There is no double-blind test for the drugs that are used, so every experience could be different.
“And what happens if they don’t work or take too long? What will be the procedure then?”
Last year, Holyrood’s first full-time wheelchair-using MSP warned that weakening end of life protections is “a danger” to disabled people.
Pam Duncan-Glancy, Labour MSP for Glasgow, said the definition of the term ‘terminally ill’ in McArthur’s assisted suicide proposal was at risk of being exploited.
Duncan-Glancy told BBC Scotland’s Debate Night: “You’re looking at a backdrop of a situation in society where disabled people are so far from any kind of equality whatsoever, that there is no safeguard I believe that can be put in any Bill.”