The Church of Scotland has joined Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders to warn the Scottish Parliament that legalising assisted suicide would be “extremely detrimental” to the vulnerable.
Speaking ahead of an event considering Liam McArthur MSP’s proposed assisted suicide Bill, the Church of Scotland’s Moderator Rt Revd Dr Iain Greenshields, Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Bishop John Keenan and Imam Shaykh Khandwalla signed a joint statement opposing the proposals.
The Assisted Dying (Scotland) Bill, which is expected to be fully drafted by the end of the year, seeks to allow residents aged 16 or over and deemed to be terminally ill to be prescribed drugs to kill themselves.
Loss of humanity
The joint statement said assisted suicide “inevitably undermines the dignity of the human person, and to allow it would mean that our society as a whole loses its common humanity”.
It added: “There is a very real danger that once legalised, these practices could put pressure on vulnerable individuals to opt for assisted suicide.
“The ways in which similar laws in other countries are being applied, and the effect that its introduction would have on some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the disabled and the elderly, would be extremely detrimental. We are called to care for those who are suffering, not to end their lives.”
Speaking separately, Revd Dr Greenshields, who recently presented King Charles III with a Bible at the Coronation, said his opposition to assisted suicide is rooted in his Christian faith as well as concerns around the principle of assisted suicide.
He expressed concerns over “the application of the law in practice, the perception of the value of human lives, and also the effect which any change is likely to have on the provision of care – in particular, on palliative care”.
Shona Haslam, Chief Executive of Logos Scotland which organised the event, responded: “I warmly welcome this joint statement from the leaders of faith groups in Scotland. They are united in their concerns around the proposed Bill and the impact that it will have on our most vulnerable communities.
“We have seen, in other countries, how quickly well intentioned legislation can be extended beyond its intended scope and we are gravely concerned that this will happen in Scotland.”
Earlier this year, a survey revealed that three quarters of palliative care doctors in Scotland would refuse to participate in any part of the assisted suicide process if it was legalised.
The poll, conducted in 2022 by the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland, found that 95 per cent of respondents would not prescribe drugs for an assisted suicide.
More than seven in ten (71 per cent) said they would consider resigning if their organisation implemented such programmes.
Dr Gillian Wright, Director of campaign group Our Duty of Care, said the “palliative care community has made a clear statement” that assisted suicide should not be legalised, and the “safeguards proposed will quickly be eroded as in other countries”.