‘Assisted dying’ would undermine Scottish Government’s suicide prevention strategy

A group of academics and disability activists have said ‘assisted dying’ proposals before the Scottish Parliament are incompatible with a new suicide prevention strategy for Scotland.

This week, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on a draft suicide prevention strategy and action plan, which will be published in September this year. The consultation document states:

“Good work is already happening across Scotland – nationally and locally – to prevent suicide, and the new Strategy and Action Plan will build on that foundation, whilst being ambitious and going further than before, to ensure fewer lives in Scotland are lost to suicide.”

Professor Kevin Yuill, a spokesman for Better Way and author of ‘Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalisation’, said suicide prevention would be ‘wholly undermined’ if MSPs back assisted suicide proposals from Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur.

Mr McArthur intends to bring forward legislation at the start of next year to see terminally ill Scots prescribed lethal drugs on the NHS. The plan has drawn criticism from a wide range of groups including senior medics, bioethicists, and disability activists.

Professor Yuill commented:

“Campaigners use the misleading term ‘assisted dying’ to describe what should honestly be described as ‘assisted suicide’ or ‘voluntary euthanasia’. They do this deliberately, to deflect from what is involved. People consider ‘assisted dying’ to mean a range of things, from palliative care to the withdrawal of treatment, and that conflation suits activists.

“Assisted suicide involves patients being given a lethal cocktail of drugs to ingest bringing about death in a matter of hours, potentially with very distressing complications before death occurs. Its introduction into healthcare settings in Scotland would have huge ramifications for patient safety, doctor-patient trust, disability equality and society as a whole.

“As the Scottish Government seeks to bolster policies aimed at preventing suicides, it is incredibly important that Liam McArthur’s proposals are rejected by MSPs. Legal assisted suicide would result in more suicides in Scotland, and it would wholly undermine the caring ethic that undergirds efforts to protect the vulnerable and prevent tragic deaths.

“Changing the law would send a message to wider society that suicide is acceptable in some circumstances, rather than a tragic event that should be prevented at all costs. In other countries, legislation has not stopped at terminal illness but gone on to endorse and facilitate doctor-assisted suicides on the grounds of disability, depression, and even poverty.

“At the heart of this debate is a fundamental question: how do we help people who are suffering? It is my strong view that the right path – the path that guarantees safety and humanity – is one where we talk people down from the proverbial precipice and provide them with compassion and support to go on living. The wrong path for our society is one where we give people a push.”


The Better Way campaign is supported by:

Dr Miro Griffiths, Leverhulme Research Fellow in Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, and policy adviser to regional, national, and supranational bodies;

Phil Friend, Chair of Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RIDC), Vice Chair of the Activity Alliance, a Churchill Fellow and a former chair of Disability Rights UK and RADAR;

Dr Kevin Yuill, a lecturer in History at the University of Sunderland and author of Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalisation;

Dr Ashley Frawley, senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at Swansea University in Wales;

David Albert Jones MA (Cantab), MA, MSt, DPhil (Oxon), Professor of Bioethics at St Mary’s University, a Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, and Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre;

Joel Zivot MD, FRCP(C) MA, practicing anesthesiologist, intensive care doctor and expert witness.

If you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone.

Help and support is available right now if you need it. You do not have to struggle with difficult feelings alone.

Phone a helpline

These free helplines are there to help when you’re feeling down or desperate.

Unless it says otherwise, they’re open 24 hours a day, every day.

You can also call these helplines for advice if you’re worried about someone else.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight every day
Text 07860 039967

Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill

SOS Silence of Suicide – for everyone
Call 0300 1020 505 – 4pm to midnight every day

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