Medical professionals criticise proposed new assisted suicide Bill in Scotland

·3-min read

A coalition of nearly 200 medical professionals in Scotland have aired their criticism of the proposed new assisted suicide Bill in the country.

So far, 175 Scottish health care professionals from a variety of specialities have signed a letter to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf with their concerns about the proposed legislation.

High-profile individuals have joined the campaign launched by Our Duty of Care (ODOC) after the new Bill was launched by Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur last month.

Signatories to the letter include David Galloway, the recently retired consultant surgeon and previous president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, and Professor Marie Fallon – the palliative medicine Professor from Edinburgh.

It states: “We write with great concern regarding the introduction of a Bill to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

“The shift from preserving life to taking life is enormous and should not be minimised. The prohibition of killing is present in almost all civilised societies due the immeasurable worth of every human life.

“Everyone has a right to life under Article 1 of The Human Rights Act 1998 such that no one should be deprived of that life intentionally.

“Some patients may never consider assisted suicide unless it was suggested to them. The cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable.

“As health care professionals, we have a legal duty of care for the safety and wellbeing of our patients.

“We the undersigned will not take patients’ lives – even if they ask us to. But for the sake of us all, we ask that the law remains unchanged.”

Humza Yousaf
The letter will be sent to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Mr McArthur put forward the proposals last month for a Members Bill at Holyrood which, if passed, would permit assisted dying for adults who are both terminally ill and mentally competent.

Almost nine out 10 Scots (87%) are said to support the introduction of such legislation, Mr McArthur said, though a previous bid to change the law at Holyrood was voted down by 82 votes to 36 in 2015.

A cross party group of a dozen MSPs have already signalled their support for Mr McArthur’s bid – the third at Holyrood – to “introduce safe and compassionate assisted dying laws in Scotland”.

However Dr Gillian Wright, a former palliative medicine registrar now working in medical ethics, helped organise the medics who have signed the ODOC letter.

Dr Gillian Wright
Dr Gillian Wright, a former palliative medicine registrar now working in medical ethics, helped organise the medics who have signed the ODOC letter (Tom Hamilton/PA)

She said: “Our Duty of Care is supported by a wide range of healthcare professionals, and has campaigned during the membership polls run by the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of General Practitioners and British Medical Association to maintain medical opposition to assisted suicide

“It includes a broad cross section of individuals from across the country with a mixture of GPs, hospital consultants, junior doctors, medical students and retired doctors from the length and breadth of Scotland including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries and Galloway as well as the Isle of Lewis.

“They come from a variety of specialties – physicians, surgeons, intensive care unit doctors and psychiatrists as well as community, hospice and hospital nurses, physiotherapists and a clinical psychologist.

“Currently the law prohibits the intentional taking of life by an individual or by the state. Why is that? Because of the incredibly high value and worth that society places on all human life, without exception.

“We are encouraged that ordinary doctors and nurses from across Scotland have joined together to send a definite message to the Health Secretary.

“We do understand that there is suffering at the end of life but this should drive us as a society, not to provide assisted suicide, but instead well-funded, accessible, high quality palliative care for all.”

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