A retired surgeon who has multiple sclerosis (MS) has spoken out against MSP Margo MacDonald’s plans to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.
Professor Donald MacDonald said: “The current laws exist to protect the vulnerable and should not be changed.”
He warned that the qualifying conditions for assisted suicide under the Bill were “so vaguely defined that they seem fairly elastic”.
Margo MacDonald tried to introduce similar proposals in 2010, but MSPs resoundingly rejected her legislation by 85 votes to 16.
Under her new Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, people as young as 16 with a terminal illness or progressive life-shortening condition would be allowed to tell their GP about their wish to die.
Prof MacDonald, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, added that he was “not reassured” by comments from the MSP that in future years the law could be widened.
The Bill is a “hideous departure from the Hippocratic and Christian tradition” of the medical profession, he explained.
Other measures in the Bill include the provision of a licensed facilitator or ‘friend at the end’ – who would collect the lethal prescription – something Prof MacDonald described as “a bizarre innovation”.
Last month campaigners against assisted suicide warned that the legislation was “unnecessary, unethical and dangerous”, and could lead the vulnerable to feel they have a “duty to die”.
In Belgium, where euthanasia was legalised in 2002, politicians are now considering child euthanasia.
Last month a Senate committee in the country voted 13-4 in favour of the proposals – but Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders have expressed “deep concern” about the legislation.
“The euthanasia of fragile people, be they children or incapable, is totally inconsistent with their condition as human beings.
“We cannot accept a logic which will lead to the destruction of society’s foundations”, they commented.
Anti-euthanasia campaigner and cancer doctor Benoit Beuselinck said the planned Belgian law could open the door to infanticide.
“Once the possibility for euthanasia exists for children, demand is likely to rise.
“It’s clear among adults that it is difficult to keep euthanasia within limits once the taboo of killing has fallen”, he said.