BY SIAN LOWER
Due to a sufficient number of Government backers in May, Independent MSP Margo MacDonald is to present a bill next month proposing a change in the law regarding voluntary euthanasia ( or ” assisted suicide” ) for the terminally ill in Scotland.
In a recent Sunday Times poll, 68% of those asked believed the law should be changed to allow voluntary euthanasia in Scotland, and a similar poll in March by STV showed 75% supported the idea.
There are currently only a small number of places where the law allows assisted suicide, including Oregon, Washington, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Due to this over 100 British terminally ill patients have ended their lives at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland.
This implies that Scotland – and indeed the UK as a whole – is somewhat “behind-the-times”, something that Ms MacDonald – who suffers from Parkinsons disease – has a personal interest in. She stated, ” Every opinion poll that is carried out of public opinion shows a clear majority in favour of this measure, the most recent being in the Sunday Times (as quoted above) where two thirds of those questioned supported the idea of the Bill.”
Despite the seemingly strong support for a change in Scottish law regarding voluntary euthanasia, there are still many organizations which oppose it, namely the Church of Scotland, which is very clear on it’s stance regarding the situation, “The Church of Scotland is opposed to all forms of euthanasia. Doctor-assisted dying may currently be seen as one option for the terminally ill, but we are concerned that it may come be regarded as a duty in the future. The situation must never arise where the terminally ill or the very elderly feel pressurized by society to end their lives.”
Many Christians also believe that because suicide is seen as a sin, “assisted suicide” is no better. Many critics describe the “slippery slope” issue, by which euthanasia would become involuntary, for example when doctors need beds in hospitals that are taken up by coma patients, or if people want to decide for their elderly relative what is best for their own personal gain. These are perhaps extreme arguments,but also valid ones. If a person is terminally ill and also elderly, dementia and mental health also come into consideration – what if a patient is depressed? Would this be an exception to the rule if they are not in control over their own well-being?
When questioned on the “slippery slope” arguement, Ms.MacDonald said, “The bill that will be published in due course will make it absoloutely clear as to who would be eligible and under what circumstances. The Bill will also make it very clear that there is a specific process that would have to be followed by the medical professionals involved in the care of the patient, and if at the end of the process there is any suggestion that the process has not been carried out in accordance with the provisions within the Bill, then the medical professionals involved could be charged with unlawful killing.”
The website www.euthanasia.com disgarees. The reasons this website gives in support of voluntary euthanasia are unbearable pain, the right to commit suicide,and people should not be forced to stay alive. These are all valid arguments and ones many terminally ill patients will relate to and agree with.
Many people obviously agree with the idea to change the law in Scotland, and of course many are against it,yet if Margo MacDonald manages to have the bill put through,it’s unlikely the debate is going to end.