Religious leaders and faith groups have spoken out against assisted suicide legislation due to be considered by the Scottish Parliament in the coming months.
A bill submitted by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur proposes to legalize assisted suicide but is strongly opposed by Catholic and Evangelical leaders, and a number of organizations including The Christian Institute, Evangelical Alliance and CARE for Scotland.
The Scottish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a New Year’s statement that legalizing assisted suicide was “contrary to the dignity of the human person” and “would put immeasurable pressure on the vulnerable” to end to their days prematurely.
The bishops expressed their particular concern about people with disabilities and those who fear being a financial or emotional burden on their loved ones.
“Once adopted, gradual extensions and removal of protections and safeguards are inevitable and have occurred wherever legislation has been passed,” they said.
“Deliberately causing the death of a patient would be crossing the Rubicon for a profession charged with acting in the best interests of the patient and first of all doing no harm.
“PSM should prevent suicide, not help it by introducing dangerous law with fatal and irreparable consequences.”
The Christian Institute echoed their concerns and warned that promised guarantees would quickly be eroded once assisted suicide was legalized.
“The choice to die very quickly becomes a duty to die. The so-called guarantees in other jurisdictions have evaporated, often at breakneck speed,” he said.
“And the drugs given to people to kill themselves can cause intense suffering. True compassion for the terminally ill means valuing their lives, giving them hope and ensuring that high quality palliative care is available. for anyone who needs it. “
The Evangelical Alliance of Scotland has warned that legalizing assisted suicide “will cause more suffering, not less”.
“It would send the message to terminally ill patients that ending their days early is something they should be considering, adding all kinds of unnecessary anxieties and stress into the most vulnerable times in someone’s life.” , did he declare.
“After two years of Covid-19, these pressures are the last thing we need to introduce into our palliative care services. “
Michael Veitch, CARE Parliamentary Officer for Scotland, also questioned the timing of the legislation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As Scotland struggles to contain the latest variant of a virus which has tragically already cut the lives of far too many people, it would be a dreadful thing to simultaneously introduce legislation allowing suicide for some of our fellow Scots the most vulnerable, ”he said.
“No guarantee could ever prevent the invisible pressure on already sick and vulnerable people from considering such an option.”
PSM have twice rejected proposals to legalize assisted suicide. Mr. Veitch urged them to start over with Mr. McArthur’s proposals.
“There are many ways to help people at the end of their life who are suffering. Empowering them to kill themselves is not one of them,” he said.
Jennie Pollock of the Christian Medical Fellowship said helping patients commit suicide was not the solution to problems with end-of-life care.
Rather, she called for more investment in palliative care to make it accessible to all who need it.
“The problem is not that palliative care is ineffective. It is that palliative care is not available to all who need it,” she said.
“The solution is not to eradicate the patient, but to invest in training and the delivery of better palliative care services.
“Legalizing physician-assisted dying would inevitably reinforce the perception that people with certain types of illnesses or disabilities have a life ‘not worth living’, that they would be ‘better off dead’ and that the costs of their care would be better directed towards the provision of health care for the most socially or economically “productive” members of society.
“Much better help is available for patients in great pain and distress than many people realize. Let’s promote this help and make it available to everyone, killing the pain, not the patients. “
A number of religious leaders have also expressed concern about the content of the legislation.
Reverend Brian R More, of Newton Mearns Baptist Church in Glasgow, said the pandemic has renewed his appreciation for the moral worth and quality of all human life.
“I want to live in a country where weakness and vulnerability are not a defining reason to consider the value of one’s life or legitimize any reason for the need to end it,” he said.
“There is a superficial compassion in the hope of helping to die in Scotland. The deceptively moral sophistication around this issue is a dangerous thing. So is Liam McArthur’s reductionist compassion for euthanasia. We have never lived in a period of history when modern medicine overshadows this legislation.
Andy Hunter, Scottish director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, said that legalizing assisted suicide “will inevitably create an environment for the most vulnerable in our society in which choosing to live becomes as much a choice as choosing to die”.
He warned of a slippery slope if the law is changed.
“In such a world, it is not difficult to see how people might start to feel (or feel) that by choosing to live, and therefore depending on the care and resources of others, they are selfish,” did he declare.
“For the state, sanctioning death on the basis of its perceived ‘value’ or ‘quality’ would fundamentally alter the balance of power between citizens and government.
“The protection of the most vulnerable members of our society depends on the fact that the government considers it sacrosanct never to tolerate any involvement in the murder of any of its citizens on such a basis.
“There will, of course, be cases which test such a principle because of its heartbreaking nature – nevertheless it is a principle which, when overturned, will inevitably lead to the demand for further pragmatic extensions.”