Scots medics oppose McArthur’s death bill

Hundreds of medical professionals from Scotland have spoken out against MSP Liam McArthur’s Assisted Dying Bill.

Backed by more than two thousand fellow members of UK-wide group Our Duty of Care, the 389 Scottish medics oppose McArthur’s plans to allow the intentional killing of patients by assisted suicide.

Under McArthur’s Bill, which Holyrood is expected to consider in the coming months, the Liberal Democrat MSP wants to remove end-of-life protections and allow vulnerable people to seek help from a doctor to kill themselves.

Hippocratic oath

Professor Robin Taylor, a consultant respiratory physician working for NHS Lanarkshire, observed: “I have been asked eight to ten times by patients to end their lives after diagnosing a terminal illness.

“But the Hippocratic Oath of more than 2,400 years old still stands. It obliges me neither to kill my patients nor even discuss killing them. There are good reasons for boundaries.

“If we open the door to assisted suicide, it will profoundly affect the NHS and the challenges of medical practice will increase hugely if assisted dying is considered a treatment option.”

Spelling out the truth

Scottish A&E consultant Dr Calvin Lightbody added: “I think we have to spell out the truth that not everyone opting for assisted dying slips away quietly.

“Around 10% will suffer seizures, vomiting, prolonged dying or other complications in the process.

He also warned that there is “no provision in the Scottish Bill for doctors who want to opt out and patients will be offered an option of assisted dying along with treatment and palliative care on the diagnosis of serious illness”.

Both doctors called for better provision of palliative care.


Last year, a survey of more than 1,000 doctors revealed that the majority (59 per cent) would not administer lethal drugs to a patient if existing end-of-life protections were removed.

According to, of the 1,088 doctors asked if they would “provide information or have a discussion with a patient” about euthanasia or assisted suicide, 58 per cent agreed, with 31 per cent declining.

The most cited reasons for not wanting to introduce euthanasia or assisted suicide were to “protect vulnerable people from risk of coercion” and because the “focus should be on improving palliative care”.


In January, an editorial for the Scottish Daily Mail highlighted that “in countries where the ‘right to die’ is permitted, euthanasia has effectively become normalised.

“It is also perhaps naive to deny that assisted dying laws could be exploited by unscrupulous relatives seeking to protect their inheritance, or a bureaucratic health service buckling under the cost of providing palliative care to an ageing population”.

Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010, the last in 2015 when 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 voted against the Bill, with MSPs from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the SNP also rejecting the legislation.

Also see:


MPs give stark warning on assisted suicide but fall short of opposing change in law

SNP Minister opposes Scots assisted suicide Bill as ‘unsafe for the disabled’

MSP: ‘Increasing numbers of Scots will die if Holyrood backs assisted suicide’

Humza Yousaf and his Health Secretary reaffirm assisted suicide opposition

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