Medics refuse to help kill patients under proposed Scots assisted suicide law

Almost two hundred healthcare professionals have expressed their opposition to a new Bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

In an open letter to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, 175 medics have so far publicly committed to care for the “safety and wellbeing” of their patients, even if asked to do otherwise.

Liam McArthur MSP, supported by pro-assisted suicide groups, is proposing to remove legal protections for vulnerable patients who are terminally ill.

‘Immeasurable worth’

Signatories to the letter, including David Galloway – a former president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow – argue that every human life is of “immeasurable worth” and, consequently, “no one should be deprived of that life intentionally”.

The letter goes on to say that the proposed Bill “would threaten society’s ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse, it would undermine the trust the public places in physicians, and it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people.”

In conclusion, the medics tell the Health Secretary: “We would not take patients’ lives – even if they asked us to – but for the sake of us all, and for future generations, we ask that the law remains unchanged.”

it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people

Call to care

Medical ethicist and former palliative care registrar Dr Gillian Wright, who helped co-ordinate the letter, 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.

“We are encouraged that ordinary doctors and nurses from across Scotland have joined together to send a definite message to the Health Secretary.

“We do understand that there is suffering at the end of life but this should drive us as a society, not to provide assisted suicide, but instead well-funded, accessible, high quality palliative care for all.”

Previous campaigns

Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010.

Most recently, in 2015, 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 voted in favour of the Bill.

A consultation on McArthur’s Bill will take place in the autumn, with a vote anticipated in Holyrood next year.

Also see:


SNP pledges to consider legalising assisted suicide if re-elected

‘In a civilised society every life has value’, says bioethicist

Vulnerable on ‘slippery slope’ to assisted suicide, warns former Cameron aide

Assisted suicide law ‘protects vulnerable from pressure to end their lives’

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