An MSP’s attempt to legalise assisted suicide is an example of ‘hard cases making bad laws’, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow has said.
Archbishop Mario Conti asserted: “Laws need to be objective in their statement of principle.
“It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.”
He was referring to The End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, proposed by Margo MacDonald MSP, which would allow the terminally ill and people who are “permanently physically incapacitated” to seek assistance in ending their lives.
Archbishop Conti was speaking at a service in Cardonald, Glasgow.
He commented: “There is room for compassion in the administration of justice – but it is truly said ‘that hard cases make bad laws’ – and for that reason I am opposed to Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance Bill.”
He pointed to the fact that courts can take mitigating circumstances into account, but that “in principle” both suicide and assisted suicide are wrong.
Margo Macdonald responded to the comments by saying she has “great regard” for the Archbishop, adding: “Everyone can make up their own mind on this question.”
The independent MSP presented her Bill to the Scottish Parliament last month.
Mrs MacDonald suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and has said that she would like to end her own life if her condition deteriorates.
Speaking at the launch of the Bill Mrs MacDonald said it is meant to give people with progressive degenerative conditions “the autonomy to exercise some control over how they die”.
She also said it would give them the “legal right to seek assistance and to protect the people who would give them assistance”.
But the Bill has been widely criticised.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has said that he is “not convinced” by Mrs MacDonald’s arguments.
At the end of January BBC Scotland reported a survey which revealed that most MSPs were opposed to the Bill.
The poll, which covered two thirds of MSPs, showed that 53 MSPs were against the Bill, 17 were in favour of it, while 20 were still undecided.
All parties will allow a free vote on the issue.
The Chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, Dr Brian Keighley, warned last month that the doctor-patient relationship could be harmed if doctors’ roles included “intentional killing”.
Dr Peter Saunders, Director of the pro-life Care Not Killing Alliance, said in January that the Bill would have a devastating effect on both the terminally ill and disabled people.