A catalogue of reasons why Margo MacDonald's Assisted Suicide Bill should be rejected
An opinion piece in The Guardian on 1 February by the Editor of the Daily Mail in Scotland, Kevin McKenna, provides a powerful critique of Margo MacDonald MSP's Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill.
Mr McKenna highlights that, although Ms MacDonald's Bill contains safeguards and claims to ensure that only terminally ill people or those suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions can seek assistance with dying, it may encourage those suffering from depression to take their life.
Mr McKenna reinforces this point by noting that Ms MacDonald's proposed Bill mirrors the Oregon model which, when passed into legislation, led to a 450% increase in assisted suicides, 20% of which involved depressed individuals.
He continues by challenging the view upon which support for assisted suicide hinges - that we should 'alleviate the suffering of a fellow human being in extremis' - with the example of sufferers of locked-in syndrome (LIS).
McKenna highlights that, contrary to the assumption that most LIS sufferers must have reached a stage where life is simply not worth living anymore and should be put out of their misery, the largest-ever study of chronic LIS patients found that almost three-quarters were happy and that only 7% had suicidal thoughts.
He also suggests in the piece that Ms MacDonald campaign instead for a minimum quality of palliative care for everyone in Scotland who requires it at the end of their lives.
Last week Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) in the United States published a blog in which she neatly summarised why legislation allowing assisted suicide is so dangerous. Here's her list of reasons which is largely applicable in the UK:
This debate is primarily about autonomy versus public safety. The current law in Scotland is clear and right and provides a strong disincentive to abuse and exploitation while allowing prosecutors and judges discretion in hard cases. It has both a stern face and a kind heart and does not need changing.
Scottish legislators should give the same short shrift to MacDonald's latest bill as they gave to her last by overwhelmingly rejecting it.