One of the key reasons Better Way does not support ‘assisted dying’ is due to the dangers it presents to patients at risk of suicidality – both those who would be eligible for an ‘assisted death’ and other people in wider society.

Patients with terminal conditions often suffer from mental illness such as depression, given the suffering they encounter and the impact an illness has on their quality of life. Depression can drive an individual to wish to end it all and this option would be enabled under assisted suicide legislation.

Assisted suicide proponents argue that safeguards, such as a requirement for two doctors to sign off an application, would prevent patients from accessing assisted suicide if they are depressed. However, depressed, and suicidal individuals are adept at hiding their feelings due to stigma and other external pressures in society. There can be no guarantee that doctors would spot symptoms.

There is also evidence from other jurisdictions that legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia leads to a rise in suicides more widely. When an assisted death is legal and considered ethical in healthcare, this sends a loud message that suicide is an acceptable solution, rather than a tragic act to be avoided at all costs. The ethical shift in healthcare has a ripple effect, affecting the whole of society.

Across UK society today, efforts to spot the symptoms of suicidality and help those who are suffering are ongoing. A change in the law to legalise assisted suicide could undermine these efforts and abandon some of the most vulnerable citizens.

A Better Way

In Scotland, the suicide prevention charity Samaritans has set out six priorities to save lives. As a campaign we endorse these recommendations and would encourage lawmakers in Scotland and the wider UK to pursue these, rather than support ‘assisted dying’.

  1. Commit to an ambitious, fully funded, 10-year strategy to prevent suicide
  2. Strengthen data and intelligence sharing to inform prevention
  3. Commit to a national strategy to improve support for people affected by self-harm
  4. Develop a cross-sector response to mental health and inequality
  5. Invest in creative on and off-line interventions to reduce loneliness & isolation
  6. Support the third and voluntary sector to play an integral role in recovery from coronavirus

Read the full Samaritans report here.