‘Lobby group-backed assisted suicide Bill needs thorough scrutiny’, says MSP

The Scottish Parliament should be wary of giving any support to a lobby group-backed Bill on assisted suicide before subjecting it to rigorous scrutiny, an MSP has said.

Writing in The Scotsman, Murdo Fraser cautioned MSPs against supporting “the principles” of Liam McArthur’s Bill before they had sight of its “detailed provisions”.

In the coming months, Holyrood is expected to consider McArthur’s plan to remove end-of-life protections and allow vulnerable people to seek help from a doctor to kill themselves.

Small vocal group

McArthur’s Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults Bill, Fraser observed, is supported by the “well-funded campaign group” Dignity in Dying – formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

However, he pointed out, Holyrood must vote on proposals “which will have an impact on all Scots and not just on the small group of vocal advocates for assisted suicide”.

Considering there is no draft, he argued, it does the Scottish Parliament “no favours to operate like some student debating society; discussing principles without due diligence being given to the potential adverse consequences on the lives of ordinary people”.

He added: “It is a clever tactic to ask people to indicate support for a Bill they haven’t seen in the hope of committing them to vote for it, regardless of how flawed it is when the time comes.”

Canada: the legalisation of assisted suicide there had been a disaster

Disastrous consequences

Fraser said: “The high costs of social care, lack of access to specialist palliative care, family pressure, financial worries, abuse and coercion are all risks of which to be aware.

“Experiences in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and elsewhere show that it is impossible to draft a safe law which can guarantee that vulnerable people won’t be put at risk.

“Just a few weeks ago, I met a group of Canadian MPs who were visiting Scotland, who were adamant in their view that the legalisation of assisted suicide there had been a disaster.”

‘Controversial legislation’

He welcomed the opposition of the First Minister, the Health Secretary and, more recently, the Equalities Minister to the Bill.

Holyrood does not have a great track record in scrutinising controversial legislation.

But cautioned: “It remains to be seen whether or not the personal opposition of senior Scottish Government ministers will facilitate rigorous scrutiny of Liam McArthur’s Bill by the Scottish Parliament.

“Holyrood does not have a great track record in scrutinising controversial legislation. The named-person scheme, the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and the legislation introducing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child have all been found wanting in the courts.”

He concluded: “given the sensitivities around the issue and the potential for horrific, unintended consequences we should not rush the process”.

Also see:


‘Unlike Dame Esther, I’m thankful assisted suicide is not legal in the UK’

Majority of UK doctors would not facilitate assisted suicide

Columnist: ‘Scotland must back away from cliff-edge of assisted suicide’

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