A new Bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland “is not a step forward” but a return to the values of a cruel pre-Christian world, an MSP has said.
Writing in The Scotsman, Murdo Fraser suggested that legislation in favour of assisted suicide threatened the lives of the vulnerable and would undermine the belief that every life is of equal value.
The Bill, lodged by Liam McArthur MSP and supported by pro-assisted suicide groups, proposes the removal of legal protections for vulnerable patients who are terminally ill.
Fraser, drawing on Tom Holland’s book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, argued that the beliefs in “equality and the essential value of human life” were founded on the teachings of the Christian faith.
By contrast, Fraser said, “the ancients were cruel” and held “the lives of the poor, the vulnerable, and of conquered peoples” to be of “no intrinsic value”.
Suicide, Fraser added, was glorified in the ancient world, but came to be strongly disapproved of in the Christian era.
Therefore, he reasoned, “set against the sweep of human history, legislating for assisted suicide is not a step forward, but a return back to the pre-Christian era, and a darker time in the past, when human life was not valued as it is today”.
The MSP highlighted the historic connection between the founder of the campaign group Dignity in Dying, Dr Charles Killick Millard, and the eugenics movement.
if the principle is accepted that some lives are regarded as less valued than others, to the extent that they are not even worth living, what does that mean for the human rights of those who are seriously disabled?
But he continued: “Today we are – rightly – repelled by the notion that the human race can be ‘improved’ by eliminating the weak, sick, or disabled.”
Nevertheless, Fraser said that disability campaigners still feared “where a change to legalising assisted suicide might lead”.
He explained: “Their worry is that if the principle is accepted that some lives are regarded as less valued than others, to the extent that they are not even worth living, what does that mean for the human rights of those who are seriously disabled?”
Fraser also said: “It is the wider consequences of changing the current law that legislators must consider, not least the concern that pressure would be applied, directly or indirectly, on the elderly and vulnerable who do not wish to become a burden on their families”.
He concluded: “A campaign to provide improved, better funded, palliative care is something that would unite the entire country, and be a truly progressive move.
“That is something we could all get behind, rather than turning back the clock to the ethics of a distant past.”
A consultation on McArthur’s Bill will take place in the autumn, with a vote anticipated in Holyrood next year. Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010.