Junior doctors reject assisted suicide push in Scotland

Junior doctors are opposing Liam McArthur MSP’s move to introduce assisted suicide.

More than 30 have signed a letter telling MSPs that they will refuse to participate in the practice if the law is changed.

Mr McArthur is proposing to remove legal protections for patients who are believed to be terminally ill.


The letter, co-authored by Christopher Marshall, a palliative care worker, and Ed Tulloch, a trainee GP, states that medical care should be focused on “the value of human life” and not “harm”.

The letter goes on to say that assisted suicide would “strain relationships” between patients and their families, and doctors.

Citing the experience of the US state of Oregon, the doctors stress that “Legalising assisted suicide will undoubtedly place untold pressure on people who are vulnerable, disabled or elderly to end their lives prematurely. Some may even feel it is their ‘duty to die’.”

Official figures from Oregon show 59 per cent of those ending their lives in 2019 said that they were concerned that they would be a burden on family, friends and caregivers.

‘Dangerous precedent’

The letter continues: “The implication of assisting suicide is that some human life is not worth continuing and would better cut short. This is a dangerous precedent.

“Where do we draw the line? What does that say about us as a society when we encourage one to end life prematurely?”

The signatories conclude by urging more support for palliative care options which would “manage symptoms rather than legalising a ‘treatment option’ that devalues the very life it seeks to end”.

What does that say about us as a society when we encourage one to end life prematurely?

“We believe that modern palliative medicine in conjunction with healthy trusting relationships are sufficient to bring dignity in dying”.


The letter has been backed by campaign groups Care Not Killing (CNK) and Our Duty of Care (ODOC).

Dr Gillian Wright of ODOC said doctors “want to send the message that these patients’ lives are valuable, their rights should be protected and there should not be pressure on anyone, from anyone, including indirectly by the state, to take their own lives.”

She was joined by CNK CEO Dr Gordon Macdonald, who said: “There is not enough focus by MSPs on the impact of legalising assisted suicide on the NHS and the provision of healthcare more generally.

“Many doctors and nurses simply won’t want to practise medicine or nursing and will move to England or Northern Ireland if assisted suicide is legalised in Scotland. Older doctors will just opt to retire and won’t be replaced.”


Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010, most recently in 2015, when MSPs rejected Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill by 82 votes to 36.

A majority of MSPs in both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour parties voted against the Bill, with MSPs from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the SNP also rejecting the legislation, but both Scottish Green MSPs at the time voted in favour of the Bill.

Also see:

CI: ‘Assisted suicide is not true compassion’

MSP: Scot assisted suicide Bill ‘a danger’ to the disabled

‘Assisted suicide Bill opens door to coercion’, palliative care experts warn

Labour Peer: ‘Even well-meaning assisted suicide activists are still wrong’

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