Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill: Unintended consequences of proposed law may be profound – Scotsman comment

MSPs must do much more than simply blow with the wind of perceived popular opinion when considering a new bill to legalise assisted dying

A new survey carried out on behalf of Dignity in Dying Scotland reports that 78 per cent of respondents were in favour of legalising assisted dying in Scotland, while just 15 per cent were against. With levels of support like that, some may expect the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults Bill, to be published today, to sail swiftly through the Scottish Parliament. It should not.

Some questions require far more thought, information and consideration than can be encompassed in opinion poll questions. According to Care Not Killing, when people are made aware of all the arguments around the subject, support falls below 50 per cent.

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No one, on any side of this debate, wants to see people die in pain. However, when considering how to address this problem, it is important to think about the wider implications of any proposed solutions. Allowing terminally ill people to receive help to end their lives may seem like a mercy, but it represents a fundamental break from the moral imperative to keep people alive and corrodes that golden rule of medicine, “first do no harm”.

Even if it is introduced as a right to be claimed, it could still turn into an obligation, an expectation, in the minds of many. Sometimes it is not possible for legislation to guard against every unintended, negative consequence.

Sick and disabled people whose treatment and care may cost large amounts of money – at a time when the NHS and social care services are struggling – may find themselves under pressure to make life easier for those around them by ending their own. It is reasons like this that leave many people – including Humza Yousaf and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar – unpersuaded by proposed assisted dying legislation after reflecting on the issue.

The Scotsman is similarly unpersuaded and also has deep concerns about the level of scrutiny to which the bill will be subjected by the Scottish Parliament, given its recent track record of badly framed legislation. On this issue above all, MSPs must do far more than simply blow with the wind of perceived popular opinion.



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