Practically speaking, allowing suicide – and permitting others to assist in it – not only makes the act more acceptable, it allows it to become systematised.
When we come to see assisted suicide as just another medical treatment, it will take on the legitimacy of any other medical treatment. Like other legitimate medical treatments, in certain circumstances it will be looked upon not as an option but an expectation – normal practice.
As it becomes a normal practice, there will be pressure on vulnerable patients to choose it; just to get out of the way and stop being a burden.
Proponents of assisted suicide who swear that it will always be a purely voluntary option fail to account for the realities of human nature.
The mere availability of assisted suicide is a coercive force. It will never be limited to those who choose it voluntarily.
Currently, the law safeguards the vulnerable and upholds life – while showing compassion to those who break the law.
Allowing assisted suicide would destroy the law’s careful balance and it would no longer defend the intrinsic value and dignity of every human life.
Do we really want to create a law that implies some lives are worth less than others?
The drive to change the law comes from a small group of determined individuals who view life as something that can and should be under our absolute control. This is hardly surprising given the state of Western society.
We live in a very utilitarian culture, in which things – and people – are valued according to how useful they are. When we try to imagine not being able to do the things we enjoy now – or even perform basic functions – we tend to think: “I wouldn’t like to live like that” and so assisted suicide can seem a legitimate option.
It is very common for people who cavalierly swore in their impregnable youth that they would rather die than lose their mobility or faculties to realise, when it actually happens to them, that they fiercely want to live.
Humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and it is dangerous to base public policy, which affects everyone, on how we feel in the prime of our health, and how we think we will feel when we lose certain capabilities.
Assisted suicide proponents are sincere in their beliefs; but what matters here is what is good for society and the law must uphold life as well as protecting the vulnerable.
I hold the radical view that killing humans is wrong. I hope our MSPs take the same view and decide to stand on the right side of truth. Let’s kill the bill, not the people.