Campaigners have stressed the “profound dangers” of physician-assisted suicide after Nicola Sturgeon commented on Holyrood proposals.
In an interview with the Daily Record, the First Minister said she is thinking “very, very deeply about the issue” and will come to a view on it before parliament votes again.
MSPs will shortly be considering a member’s proposal to allow doctor-assisted suicide for people with a terminal condition thought to have six months to live.
Ms Sturgeon told the Record:
“I’ll be really honest, it’s an issue I really struggle with. And I will have to come to a view on it before Parliament votes on it again, and I will. I think my mind is more open to it than it perhaps has been in the past. I am always very moved by people whose – themselves or family – whose terminal illness has meant they’ve been in a position where they think they perhaps would have wanted to have the right to assisted dying.
“Equally, and this is the thing I’ve always struggled to get over, is my concern about how would you ever put sufficient safeguards into a system, where you can be certain that people – elderly people in particular – didn’t almost feel a sort of pressure in some circumstances, or where it could be abused? The other thing which I feel strongly about…is that allowing people to have good deaths through good palliative care is really important, and I think it’s vital we don’t lose focus on that.
“I’m still thinking very, very deeply about this issue myself. And, you know, I will continue to talk to people, to consider all of the arguments, before coming to a view myself ”.
Dr Miro Griffiths, a spokesperson for the Better Way campaign and expert adviser on disability policy, commented:
“We appreciate that Ms Sturgeon is thinking through this issue carefully, and that she is willing to hear arguments from various groups. We hope she will meet with a wide range of people from different communities who do not support doctor assisted suicide in coming months. The disabled people’s community include many vocal opponents, and it is vital their voice in particular is heard.
“It is vital that the First Minister follows the evidence on assisted suicide and euthanasia. And it clearly shows profound dangers for individuals and society at large. As she rightly noted in her interview with the Record, safeguards are an issue. In other jurisdictions, they have failed and been eroded over time. There is no guarantee this will not happen in Scotland.
“Canada, a country with close ties and cultural similarities to Scotland, has witnessed cases of coercion and abuse, worsening discrimination against disabled people, and even people feeling forced to opt for assisted death because care is too expensive. Opening the door to this practice here risks similar outcomes, affecting the most marginalised.
“Nicola Sturgeon is right to feel empathy for people who say they are suffering at the end of life, and who may wish to end their lives. She rightly notes the importance of palliative care. Ensuring access to high quality palliative care is the moral response, not lethal drugs. We know that palliative care has languished in European nations that allow doctor-assisted suicide. The two practices are simply not compatible.
“We have a better vision for Scotland. A vision involving high quality palliative care for all, increased action on suicide prevention, and greater disability equality. These noble goals are only attainable if the door to assisted suicide remains firmly shut.”
Notes for Editors:
The Better Way campaign is supported by:
Dr Miro Griffiths, Leverhulme Research Fellow in Disability Studies, 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.
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