Elderly ‘pressured to die’ if Scots legalise assisted suicide

Legalising assisted suicide in Scotland could put “intolerable pressure on the old and vulnerable” to die, a columnist has warned.

Writing in the Daily Record, Joan Burnie said she remains “deeply uneasy” about the latest attempt to weaken the law in Scotland.

MSP Margo MacDonald launched a new Bill in November last year which would allow people as young as 16 with a terminal illness or progressive life-shortening condition to tell their GP about their wish for assisted suicide.


Burnie said that such a law could lead to a family suggesting their elderly grandmother opts to have her life ended in order to “get their mitts on her savings”.

She said “maybe such a situation would seldom happen”, but that “even one person driven to take their own life for the convenience of someone else is one too many.”

“Obviously there should be much better care for those who are living in intolerable pain or who are in the final stages of a terminal illness – but that shouldn’t mean an NHS death”, she added.


Burnie commented on how the architect of Holland’s euthanasia law came to “deeply regret” the move, because of the damage done to the hospice movement.

“Not that it has prevented Holland’s neighbour Belgium from legalising euthanasia for terminally ill children, no matter how young – so long as they give ‘informed consent’ to their doctors”, she said.

She warned that it would be difficult to prevent some doctors “assuring everyone” that their young patients have given their consent, when they may not have done.


The Belgian Parliament supported legislation to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children of all ages by 86 votes to 44 with 12 abstentions earlier this month.

Burnie warned that despite assurances from the pro-assisted suicide lobby that the UK would “never go down the same route as the Belgians” on child euthanasia, we all know about the “Law of Unintended Consequences, when something has been brought in for the best of reasons but has the worst of outcomes”.

Last week, the Chief Executive of disability charity Scope said that British disabled people “will be looking nervously” at Belgium’s decision to introduce child euthanasia.

He said the law should not be changed on the basis of “powerful, but exceptional” cases, and that politicians need to “guard against community bullying” of society’s “most vulnerable members”.

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