Assisted suicide is the wrong path for Scotland, campaigners say, as a public consultation on fresh proposals is due to be launched at Holyrood.
The Better Way campaign, a new coalition of academics and disability activists, warns the fight for equality would be undermined by the plans.
Dr Miro Griffiths, a Leverhulme Research Fellow in Disability Studies and spokesman for Better Way, commented:
“’Assisted dying’ legislation places emphasis on interventions to facilitate and accelerate an individual’s death whilst ignoring systemic social injustices. It also diverts attention away from policy interventions that should provide people with support to participate in their communities, and access sufficient palliative care at the end of their life. We have arrived again at a debate about ‘dignity in death’ before we have truly established dignity in life.”
“In saying this, I am not ignoring the prevalence of pain, distress, and fear that can – sometimes – accompany health conditions, illnesses, and impairments. I am aware this exists, and I experience it personally. I am arguing that we cannot pass legislation and policy measures based on a tiny number of individuals’ anecdotal experiences. We must always consider the broader contexts associated with policy and law.
“Disabled people’s human rights violations are real. Disabled people are denied opportunities to participate in their communities. Disabled people do not receive sufficient support to have a valued, respected role in society. If the Assisted Dying Bill was not to pass these issues would still exist. If the Assisted Dying Bill was to pass, these issues would likely be compounded, as would inequalities faced by other groups.
“I urge MSPs not to open the door to assisted suicide. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it leads to serious and widespread harms affecting the most marginalised in society. Let’s work together to establish a better way for Scotland.”
The Better Way campaign was launched on 18 September 2021 to oppose assisted suicide proposals at Westminster and Holyrood.
It highlights evidence from Canada, which legalised the practice in 2016, alongside testimonies of people with “lived experience of terminal illness” in arguing to keep the law as it stands.
It also seeks to set out a “positive, alternative vision”, encompassing “truly compassionate and beneficial policies for those implicated by a change in the law”. Its website states:
“The evidence is clear, assisted suicide poses many dangers to society. In Canada, access to palliative care and other forms of specialist support has diminished. Existing structural inequalities have been made worse. ‘Safeguards’ have proved completely ineffective and have been dispensed with quickly.
“We cannot risk these harmful outcomes in the UK, especially in a post-coronavirus world where healthcare budgets are stretched. Instead of opening the door to assisted suicide, politicians should pursue truly compassionate and beneficial policies for those implicated by a change in the law.
“We have a better vision for the UK. A vision involving better access to palliative care, a redoubling of efforts to prevent suicides, action on elder abuse and loneliness, and greater disability equality. These noble goals are only attainable so long as the door to assisted suicide remains firmly shut.”
Notes for Editors:
The Better Way campaign is supported by:
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 Miro Griffiths, Leverhulme Research Fellow in Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, and policy adviser to regional, national, and supranational bodies.
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.
Issued on behalf of the Better Way campaign by Jamie Gillies:
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