Support for assisted suicide in Scotland falls dramatically when people are presented with arguments against the practice, a new survey has found.
The poll comes ahead of today’s Stage 1 vote at Holyrood, on a Bill to allow people as young as 16 to get help to kill themselves.
The survey of 1,044 Scottish adults, commissioned by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), showed that support for assisted suicide fell from 73 per cent to just 45 per cent after their responses to different arguments against assisted suicide were taken into account.
According to the poll, 22 per cent of those backing assisted suicide changed their minds when told about the risk that people will feel pressurised into ending their life early so as not to be a financial or care burden on loved ones.
Close to a quarter (23 per cent) dropped their support when told about the consequences of legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia in other countries.
A steady increase in the number of cases has followed legalisation, and the practice has widened to involve people with chronic diseases, disabled people, children as well as those with mental illnesses and dementia.
Dr Stuart Weir, National Director of CARE for Scotland, said: “Scotland has a proud history of helping the most vulnerable and that extends to those at the end of their lives.”
“There are good reasons to abandon this legislation and what we have seen is when people are shown these arguments, support for assisted suicide declines at quite an astonishing rate.
“We should be helping people to live, not trying to facilitate premature death”, he concluded.
Lack of clarity
The Bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland has attracted criticism from politicians, legal professionals and faith leaders.
Alison Britton, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Health and Medical Law Committee said: “We remain concerned over the lack of definition of the key terms, such as ‘assistance’ and ‘life-shortening’ and the functions of the licensed facilitator are still uncertain.
“Lack of such clarity leads to ambiguity and leaves the legislation open to interpretation.”
Revd Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, said: “We believe that rather than seeking to legislate for assisted dying, the Parliament must instead increase its efforts to ensure that there is high-quality palliative care available to people in every part of Scotland.
And Muslim leaders from the Council of Imams Scotland have written to MSPs urging them to vote against the Bill.
The letter said: “Any change in the law to allow assisted suicide or euthanasia would be unethical, unnecessary, dangerous and contrary to the common good.”