Pope Benedict XVI Headed to Scotland, Urges Opposition to Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 5, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pope Benedict XVI Headed to Scotland, Urges Opposition to Assisted Suicide Bill

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 5
, 2010

Glasgow, Scotland (LifeNews.com) — Pope Benedict XVI is headed to Scotland where he will urge members of the Scottish Parliament to oppose a bill that would legalize assisted suicide. The head of the Catholic Church told Scottish bishops today that euthanasia "strikes at the very heart" of Christianity.

The pope said assisted suicide a sign of "the increasing tide of secularism" in Scotland and he urged Catholics to take a more active stand in speaking out against it.

Pope Benedict will visit England, Wales and Scotland in mid-September and he said in a statement that "support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life."

"Recent developments in medical ethics and some of the practices advocated in the field of embryology give cause for great concern," he added.

Benedict XVI also encouraged Scottish bishops in his meeting with them today at the Vatican to make their voice heard in public society.

"A strong Catholic presence in the media, local and national politics, the judiciary, the professions and the universities can only serve to enrich Scotland’s national life, as people of faith bear witness to the truth, especially when that truth is called into question," he said. "All too often the Church’s doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality, as we know, is that it is creative and life-giving."

MSP Margo MacDonald introduced the assisted suicide bill last month and Scotland pro-life advocates responded with a new effort with the hope of preventing a debate on a bill.

MacDonald was guaranteed a debate on her measure as soon as 21 MSPs out of the 129 in the chamber indicated their support.

However, last month, pro-life advocates wrote to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer arguing the bill should not be allowed to receive a debate and vote because it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Care Not Killing campaign says the MSPs would be acting outside the parliament’s jurisdiction if they debate the bill.

Last year, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health minister, said she is opposed to the assisted suicide bill and worries that it will be abused to target the elderly and disabled.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association has joined pro-life groups and disability rights advocates in opposing the bill.

“The BMA would be very disappointed if we ended up with having legalized physician-assisted suicide in Scotland," Dr. George Fernie of the BMA said. “People when they have a debilitating illness that may end their life are extremely vulnerable, they’re at a fragile stage. And our worry is they’re going to contemplate ending their life when that really isn’t their wish.”

Also, the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics panned the bill, calling it "dangerous and unnecessary."

The panel believes the bill would turn disabled and terminally ill people into second class citizens.

The council said assisted dying was unnecessary because physical suffering can be adequately alleviated in all but the most rare cases.

Director of research Dr Callum MacKellar said: "When dying patients realize that they do not need to suffer, they often change their minds about euthanasia."

Under the bill, any doctor asked by a patient for drugs to kill himself would consult with a specialist beforehand and then must provide the patient’s records to a medical panel after the patient is dead.

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