World Suicide Prevention Day casts the proposed assisted dying Bill in Scotland in a new light - Stuart Weir

Friday 10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day. ‘Grim’ is surely a term too airy to intimate that there were 805 people in Scotland who sadly ended their lives in 2020, which follows similar numbers over successive years: 833 in 2019 and 764 the year before that.

Stuart Weir, national director of CARE for Scotland.

Whatever the reasons behind these suicides, there are many in Scotland concluding that life is no longer worth living. This is tragic. These figures are “of extreme concern” to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. But to swiftly move on from tragedy without any enquiry of the ‘why’s’ of suicide is to ignore entirely root causes that are leading to the fatal conclusion of many. Add to this Scotland’s woeful drugs death record, the worst in Europe, and you have a picture that speaks of a nation in complete despair.

That people individually act on ending their lives is desperate in and of itself. In view of this, for state-sanctioned suicide to be up for consideration is surely absurd and grossly ill-considered in a society that is already marked by the haunting of suicide. Nevertheless, Liam McArthur MSP is the political figure who has announced that he will front a new ‘assisted dying’ Bill at the Scottish Parliament. This means that, if successful, doctors in NHS Scotland will have to assist in helping Scots commit suicide.

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Can we seriously show remorse at soaring suicide rates and wilfully weigh up the merits of assisted suicide simultaneously? To even be remotely sympathetic to the latter is to be blind to the overall picture of hopelessness that is pervasive across the country. We are a nation that is spiralling towards wanton death, not least because of the shock reverberations of pandemic deaths. The sheer impropriety of presenting Parliament with a method of culling those with grave ailments while others continue to terminate their own lives in big numbers is a heartless move.

The attempt, then, to introduce state-supported suicide masquerades by altering ‘assisted suicide’ to ‘assisted dying’, thus supplanting the wincing term ‘suicide’ in print only. Such a switch only seeks to take the sharp edges off the dreadful means of the death, a sleight of hand that sanitises this unethical act. The fact is that there are some in the wider pro-assisted suicide movement who would see the ending of lives that incur a burden on the health service as a pragmatically positive outcome. A political solution that makes budgets look better but which baptises suicide for its implementation. We must look with our heads at what is being proposed for our healthcare system and ask deeper questions about the motivation and consequences of assisted suicide.

What Scotland does not need is yet another way of prematurely ending lives. But this is precisely what this draft legislation will intend to do. Scotland needs, so desperately, to say a resolute ‘NO’ to any forthcoming ‘assisted dying’ Bill so that we can reclaim life for the living, even for those near the end of days. What we need is hope for life lived in the present, and support to live it – a culture of life and hope, not death.

Stuart Weir, National Director of CARE for Scotland

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