In a victory for pro-life advocates looking to protect the disabled and terminally ill, the Scottish parliament has rejected a bill to legalize assisted suicide. At Holyrood, the assisted suicide bill has been rejected by MSPs on a 82-36 vote. Green MSP, Patrick Harvie sponsored the legislation.
The Bill calls for the creation of ‘licensed facilitators’ – aged as young as 16 – who would assist individuals end their life and would remain close by until such times and even film the scene as the individual dies or decides not to proceed with the assisted suicide.
Leading campaigners against the bill said it would present a wide range of problems.
“On a raft of crucial matters the committee has revealed the Bill to be lacking and deeply flawed,” said physician Dr. Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing.
“Care Not Killing is strongly opposed to legalising assisted suicide and firmly believes life should be protected and palliative care prioritised. It represents more than 40 professional groups, faith groups, human rights groups, medical professionals, palliative care specialists and legal experts who are convinced it would be dangerous and unnecessary to decriminalise the existing law on homicide,” he said.
Those concerns were presented at the committee level and a report was issued listing the problems.
Dr Gordon Macdonald of Care Not Killing (pictured giving evidence to the committee), said, ‘This report confirms what we have said along. The Bill is poorly thought out, ill-conceived, badly-drafted and effectively not fit for purpose. We are delighted that the committee agrees with us that the Bill contains significant flaws which are likely to prevent it from being enacted. It is gratifying to note a majority of the committee is against the Bill although they have not made a formal recommendation to the Parliament to reject the Bill.’”
Dr Macdonald said. ‘We do not want the state-sanctioned killing of old, ill and disabled people of all impairment.
‘We want support for people to live – not to die. In recent weeks as the Bill has been scrutinised we have witnessed repeated and sustained criticism from a variety of sources and for a range of reasons because it is so badly drafted – leading experts in medicine and palliative care, senior lawyers and experienced ethicists who all express serious and genuine concerns. And more than 15,000 members of the public have signed our petition.
‘We have always maintained that assisted suicide is unnecessary, unethical and uncontrollable. This is compounded by the fact that this is a weakly thought-out and poorly-written Bill. The numbers of people who have criticised whole parts of it, quite aside from any moral or ethical objections, highlight the problems with the legislation.’”
Catherine Garrod, Edinburgh Disability Rights Campaigner speaking on behalf of Not Dead Yet, another campaign group opposing the Bill, said: ‘Disabled people oppose assisted suicide because it gives the message that our lives are not worth living. Disabled people want assistance to live, investment in health and social care, good palliative care, support for independent living and the right to equality not assisted suicide.’
Dr Macdonald added: ‘We believe the public needs to be fully aware of all the arguments and not just be influenced by the knee-jerk emotional arguments about so-called dignity in death from those who back the Bill.
‘People change their minds quickly on this issue when they are told about the possible impact on the vulnerable, those near the end of life, the sick, elderly, disabled and depressed who may consider themselves in some way a burden and through fear of becoming a financial, emotional or care burden find themselves pressured in some way to opt for assisted suicide.
‘The proposed safeguards contained in the Bill are simply not robust enough to prevent abuse from occurring. Many people, including leading doctors, spokespeople for disability groups and representatives of Scotland’s churches, have criticised this Bill . And it must be rejected by MSPs and the Scottish Parliament at the soonest opportunity.
Anti-euthanasia campaigner Alex Schadenberg also outlined the problems.
When reading Scotland’s assisted suicide bill it is apparent that the language of the bill will kill.
Section 1 of the bill says:
It is not a crime (of any kind) to assist a person to commit suicide.
This means that anyone can do it.
Section 8 of the bill defines the rules for requesting assisted suicide. Subsection 3 states that the person must be registered as a patient in Scotland, be at least 16 years old, signed a preliminary declaration and:
(d) has, after reflecting on the consequences for the person of the considerations set out in subsection (4) and in the light of that reflection, concluded that the quality of the person’s life is unacceptable
Subsection 5 states:
(a) an illness that is, for the person, either terminal or life-shortening, or
(b) a condition that is, for the person, progressive and either terminal or life-shortening.
It is not limited to terminal conditions, but rather life-shortening conditions. There are many life-shortening conditions that are not terminal. This is a very wide condition that focuses on assisted suicide for people with disabilities or chronic conditions.