Guest Column

Opponents of assisted suicide in Scotland: Canada proves legalizing would be ‘unsafe and unpredictable’


(Right to Life UK) Campaigners have warned that proposals to allow assisted suicide in Scotland will open the door to a Canada-style system in which people will be permitted to end their lives for mental health concerns, branding the proposals “regressive and dangerous.”

While MSPs in Holyrood consider a proposal to make assisted suicide legal, opponents of the legislation have pointed to Canada arguing that a change in law will open the way to more extreme legislation in future. While Canada introduced assisted suicide in 2016 under certain conditions, the requirement that death be “reasonably forseeable” has been removed and from 2023, assisted suicide and euthanasia on the basis of mental health alone will be permitted.

Spokesperson for the Better Way campaign, Dr Miro Griffiths, said: “The development of Canada’s euthanasia framework since it was introduced should trouble every politician in the UK who is being asked to back legal assisted suicide.”

“Canada shows that laws of this kind are inherently unsafe and unpredictable.”

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“In Canada and other European jurisdictions, safeguards have failed and been dispensed with over time as activists push for wider access to legislation. This cannot ultimately be denied by parliaments and courts because doing so is felt to be exclusionary.”

“Cases of coercion and abuse, and worsening discrimination against marginalised groups are also part of the global picture. People feel forced to opt for assisted death because of poverty, homelessness, or a lack of care. These laws offer only an illusion of choice.”

“Regressive and dangerous”

“The evidence heard in previous debates about assisted suicide makes it clear that legalising this practice in Scotland would jeopardise the safety, dignity, and equality of many Scots. It remains a regressive and dangerous plan,” Dr Griffiths added.

MSPs in Holyrood have twice voted against making assisted suicide legal in Scotland, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also twice voting against the proposal. She now claims to be “more open” to a change in the law.

The assisted suicide legislation in Scotland is being proposed by Liam McArthur MSP. Under the plans, a mentally competent adult who is thought to have no chance of recovery from an illness which will result in death could be prescribed lethal drugs on the NHS. Those opting for assisted suicide would have a “period of reflection” before ending their lives.

One in five cite loneliness as a reason to want to die

In 2021, 10,064 people ended their lives by assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada, an increase of over 32% from the previous year, accounting for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.

According to the latest report on Medical Assistance in Dying from Health Canada, 17.3% of people also cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.7% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: “Campaigners are right to be concerned about where this kind of legislation leads and the Canadian example should serve as a warning sign.”

Editor’s Note: This article was published at Right to Life UK and is reprinted here with permission.

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