The final proposal to legalize euthanasia is tabled in the Scottish Parliament

Opponents of Scotland’s bill allowing terminally ill adults to end their lives argue it could open the door to people being euthanized for other criteria, such as mental health issues.

On Thursday, Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat member of the Scottish Parliament, tabled the final proposal for assisted dying for terminally ill adults (Scotland).

Organizations opposed to assisted dying legislation argue that it could “normalize” suicide.

“Serious questions need to be asked”

The MSP’s Assisted Suicide Bill proposes that anyone aged 16 or over who is considered terminally ill and has been resident in Scotland for 12 months can get help to end their life.

“When you start to consider, what really hasn’t been considered in any of these consultations is the very important body of evidence that emerges showing a link between legalizing assisted suicide and/or the euthanasia and the normalization of suicide in the general population. Serious questions need to be asked about this,” Alistair Thompson, spokesperson for the Care Not Killing Alliance, told The Epoch Times.

The Care Not Killing Alliance promotes more and better palliative care and wants to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed.

McArthur said BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland program Thursday that he hoped his MPs’ bill would receive cross-party support and lead to a change in the law next year. A Private Members Bill is legislation that is introduced by an MSP who is not a Scottish Government minister.

The Western Australian Parliament will begin debate on the highly controversial Voluntary Euthanasia Bill on Tuesday. Under the bill, a request for the administration of euthanasia would only apply to a person with a terminal illness that will lead to death within two years and who is experiencing debilitating pain. (Jorge Dirkx/AFP/Getty Images)

Although on the same programme, disability activist Dr Jim Elder-Woodward said no disability organizations support assisted dying and that he fears for the future of people with disabilities if the law was introduced.

“The assisted dying bill … could spell disaster for people with disabilities in the future,” Elder-Woodward said. “No one can guarantee the safeguards of the current bill [will] be retained in the future. No disability organization is in favor of medical assistance in dying.

England’s Assisted Dying Bill is in the process of being passed by the British Parliament, although euthanasia is illegal in England and Wales and can be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter.

At present, this is also at risk of being charged with a number of possible offenses under Scottish criminal law. Because of this, at least 20 Scottish citizens have traveled to and died at Swiss facilities such as Dignitas, according to a report by McArthur (pdf).

Results of the public consultation contested

At Holyrood on Thursday, McArthur said he had been “particularly struck by many heartbreaking accounts from those who have seen their loved ones endure a bad death.

“They sent a powerful message that even with excellent palliative care, the option of assisted death would have made such a difference in terms of reducing unnecessary suffering.

“A safe and compassionate medical assistance in dying law is a law whose time has come,” he added.

The consultation received the highest number of public responses for a bill proposed by a Member of the Scottish Parliament. McArthur produced a summary report (pdf) noting that 14,038 responses were received. The report says 10,687 or 76% fully supported the proposal.

Right to Life, a pro-life organization that opposes assisted suicide, disputes the rate of those who fully support the bill. They called on the Scottish Government to “urgently undertake an independent review”.

Right to Life received an email from McArthur’s office on January 18, 2022, which read: “I can confirm that we have received 3,532 submissions from [email protected] Right to Life provided the email to The Epoch Times.

The report notes that 3,352 responses were received from Right to Life but that they “are not counted in the data presented in the summary”. The reason given is that they were received from the same email on the same day.

The Epoch Times asked McArthur for comment and asked for clarification on the discrepancy between the number of responses to Right to Life in the report (3,352) and in the email to Right to Life (3,532), but had no response at the time of publication. .

Extension to other countries

Thompson said Scotland took inspiration from the US state of Oregon, which has had an assisted dying law for more than 20 years. But he noted that a 2015 peer-reviewed medical journal found that legalizing physician-assisted suicide (PAS) was associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides (including assisted suicides).

He argued that any changes to the law allowing assisted suicide or euthanasia would put pressure on vulnerable people to die for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden on others, affecting people disabled, elderly, sick or even depressed. .

“So the first country to start euthanizing people for Mental Health conditions were the Netherlands and then Belgium followed suit very quickly. The conditions included anorexia, as well as some sort of combination of sexual abuse pathologies, which was probably the scariest,” he said.

“Subsequently, Canada also took this route,” he said.

Canada’s expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID), a procedure first made legal by the federal Liberal government in 2016, has been called “the most permissive euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation in the world.” world “.

But he added that there has been a gradual extension in Canada, which has extended to people who do not suffer from mental illness.

In its 2021 report, the Canadian government cited that of 9,950 MAID deaths, 17.3% cited “isolation or loneliness” as the reason. This represents a 250% increase from the 2,838 MAID deaths in 2017, the first full year that assisted suicide was legal in Canada.

“These bills seem very, very innocuous. People are starting to look and say, well, that doesn’t seem so bad,” he said. “Hopefully MSPs will see the meaning when they start looking at the details,” Thompson said.

A previous attempt to legalize assisted suicide in Scotland was defeated in the Scottish Parliament in 2015.

AP media contributed to this report.

Owen Evans

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Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist who covers a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.

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