‘Dangerous’ assisted suicide Bill tabled in Scotland

People in Scotland with a terminal illness could feel pressurised to kill themselves under a new assisted suicide Bill tabled today.

The Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill, which was put forward by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur, would allow doctors to help adults to kill themselves “if they have an advanced and progressive disease, illness or condition from which they are unable to recover and that can reasonably be expected to cause their premature death”.

The law would exclude adults without the capacity to consent, and says doctors must be satisfied the person is not being coerced. However, critics have said the safeguards are inadequate.

‘Individual lives are devalued’

Dr Gillian Wright, spokesperson for Our Duty of Care, an alliance of healthcare professionals, said: “Currently the law prohibits the intentional taking of life by an individual or by the state. Why is that? Because of the incredibly high value and worth that society places on all human life, without exception.

“The primary danger of assisted suicide is that individual lives are devalued by society because they are ill, disabled, confused or that their contribution to society is perceived to be minimal.

“The secondary danger is that terminally ill and disabled individuals may begin to devalue themselves because of the burden that they perceive they are to society. In a cruel twist, possible legislation on assisted suicide, that is designed to empower, may have the effect of eroding the autonomy of the most vulnerable.”

‘Euphemistic language’

Dr Fiona MacCormick of the Association for Palliative Medicine highlighted the potential for inaccurate diagnoses and prognoses, and added that coercion can often be difficult to detect.

She said: “As a palliative care doctor, when I see patients who are suffering, I don’t see the answer to their suffering as being to end the life of the sufferer”.

She was also critical of campaigners for using the term ‘assisted dying’, rather than ‘assisted suicide’, noting: “they’ve used very euphemistic language to talk about suicide”. She also said the terminology is “harmful and unhelpful”.

Assisted suicide

Assisted suicide

Campaigners for assisted suicide are stepping up their efforts. There are new legislative proposals at both Westminster and Holyrood to enable terminally ill adults to get help to kill themselves.


Professor David Galloway, a former President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, said: “In every jurisdiction that has permitted either assisted suicide and/or euthanasia, unbearable physical suffering and poor pain control are rarely the reasons people seek an assisted death.

“More often it comes down to a sense of hopelessness, loss of capacity to engage in enjoyable activities or not wishing to become a burden on family. Change in the law would not allow a guaranteed, easy, painless, dignified death. It would be far better to recognise the importance of providing palliative care for everyone who needs it.”

And a joint letter from disability groups to MSPs states: “It is not difficult to imagine that an individual’s judgment that ‘my life is not worth living’ can morph into others’ perception that ‘his or her life is not worth living’. What will be the consequences of that shift?

“The fear that [assisted suicide] as an individual choice will evolve into a societal pressure to make that choice, is real and justified. Changes in the type of people seeking [assisted suicide] show that over time, there is an increase in [assisted suicide] among those who are less well-off and for whom the cost of living actually means the cost of staying alive.”


MSPs are to be given a free vote on the issue, but some senior figures have spoken against changing the law. First Minister Humza Yousaf said in September after a meeting with Glasgow Disability Alliance that his opposition to changing the law had strengthened.

Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar also said he is “yet to be convinced” of the case for change, and is “not currently minded” to support the Bill.

He said: “I’m struck by my colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy, the first MSP to be a permanent wheelchair user, who argues we actually need to give people a right to live, not just the right to die.

“For many people across the country, particularly those with disabilities, they don’t feel they have that right to live. I’ll follow the debate, but I think it will take a lot to convince me it’s the right approach.”

Please accept preferences cookies to view this content.


The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Simon Calvert said: “Those lobbying for assisted suicide may claim they are showing compassion to those who are suffering towards the end of their lives, but the reality is nothing short of dystopian.

“It’s well known that those who are elderly, sick or disabled can feel like a burden on their families and the NHS. Removing end-of-life protections would make vulnerable people believe it’s in everyone’s best interests that their lives are cut short.

“It will hasten the deaths of thousands. Jurisdictions across Europe and North America have invariably seen eligibility criteria widening, often staggeringly quickly and the numbers of people dying rising year on year. Why would Scotland be any different?”

‘Highest quality treatments’

Mr Calvert continued: “Many with degenerative illnesses or incorrect prognoses have spoken of how glad they are that assisted suicide was not available to them because in their darkest moments they would have taken that option, and then missed out on years of making happy memories with their friends and family.

“We ought to ensure that people in these difficult situations have access to the highest quality treatments or palliative care, rather than, as a society, telling them their lives are not worth living.

“I wish those campaigning so hard for sick people to commit suicide would invest their time and money in campaigning for improvements to healthcare instead.”

Also see:


Legalising assisted suicide ‘reinforces view that some are better off dead’

Oireachtas committee ignores ‘overwhelming’ evidence by backing assisted suicide

Scots medics oppose McArthur’s death bill

Bake Off’s Prue fears she is helping to unleash assisted suicide ‘nightmare’

Related Resources