Campaigners have drawn attention to “disturbing” developments in Canada as they warn MSPs not to legalise assisted suicide.
In recent months, reports have emerged of marginalised Canadians seeking an ‘assisted death’ due to poverty and homelessness. One man also alleges that he is being pushed to opt for ‘Medical Aid in Dying’ (MAiD) due to the costs of care relating to his disability.
Canada has already made disability a ground for accessing MAiD and will extend eligibility to citizens with mental health conditions from next year. Calls have also been made for disabled babies to be eligible under the legislation, attracting strong criticism.
Better Way, a group of academics, medics and disability activists that opposes ‘assisted dying’, said Canada’s experience is a clear warning to MSPs.
Dr Miro Griffiths, a spokesperson for the campaign and expert adviser on disability policy, commented:
“The development of Canada’s euthanasia framework since it was introduced in 2016 should trouble every politician in the UK who is being asked to back legal assisted suicide. Canada shows that laws of this kind are inherently unsafe, and unpredictable.
“In Canada and other European jurisdictions, safeguards have failed and been dispensed with over time as activists push for wider access to legislation. This cannot ultimately be denied by parliaments and courts because doing so is felt to be ‘exclusionary’.
“Cases of coercion and abuse, and worsening discrimination against marginalised groups are also part of the global picture. People feel forced to opt for assisted death because of poverty, homelessness, or a lack of care. These laws offer only an illusion of ‘choice’.
“MSPs are right to feel empathy for people who are suffering at the end of life, and who may wish to end their lives. Ensuring access to high quality palliative care and wider forms of support is the moral response to human suffering, not lethal drugs.
“We have a better vision for Scotland involving high quality palliative care for all, enhanced suicide prevention, and greater action on behalf of vulnerable and marginalised group. We hope MSPs will opt for a positive, ethical future rather than doctor-assisted suicides.
“The evidence heard in previous debates about assisted suicide makes it clear that legalising this practice in Scotland would jeopardise the safety, dignity, and equality of many Scots. It remains a regressive and dangerous plan that must be robustly opposed.”
The Better Way campaign is a group of academics, medics and disability activists that opposes moves to legalise ‘assisted dying’.
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; Yuan Yi Zhu, University of Oxford research fellow on the relationship between law and politics, and expert on Canada’s expansionist euthanasia regime.
Help is available
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.
Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill