Ms. Margo Macdonald MSP's Assisted Dying Proposals, Scotland
Indeed, assisted dying is unnecessary because physical suffering can be adequately alleviated in all but the most rare cases when treated by healthcare professionals with the relevant expertise. And even in the very exceptional cases where physical suffering does not fully respond to treatment there is the possibility of using artificial transient or (very occasionally) total permanent sedation in patients to keep them asleep in order to address physical and/or mental distress.
In this regard, Dr. Calum MacKellar, Director of Research of the SCHB indicated that: "With appropriate palliative care, physical suffering can be adequately addressed" adding "when dying patients realise that they do not need to suffer, they often change their minds about euthanasia".
Furthermore, the SCHB believes that assisted dying is dangerous because it would change the manner in which society viewed both death and disability.
In this regard, Dr MacKellar said that: "People who are difficult or costly to care for may begin to be seen as burdens to society or second class citizens. In addition, it would fundamentally change the role of doctors and other health care professionals, whose role has always been to cure and care for patients, not to kill them".
Legalising assisted dying is also dangerous because it would mean that Scottish society agrees (for the first time) that some lives, for whatever reason, are no longer worth living and have lost all their value or meaning and should be brought to an end. Moreover, supporting assisted dying signifies that it is acceptable to help kill those whom society believes have a meaningless and worthless life.
Because of this Dr. MacKellar indicated that: "In an interdependent society, making a conscious decision about the value and worth of one life (even one's own) means making a choice about the value and worth of many other lives."
Finally, the SCHB questions whether the family and friends of those who want to die or even other members of society should be forced to deny the value and worth that they confer on the lives of these persons who, unfortunately, want to die even though physical suffering can be addressed. In this regard, Dr. MacKellar said: "For persons to choose assisted dying signifies explicitly rejecting the dignity, worth and value that relatives, friends and other members of society are giving to their lives."
The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics was formed in 1997 as an independent, non-partisan, non-religious council composed of physicians, lawyers, ethicists and other professionals from disciplines associated with medical ethics. The principles to which the SCHB subscribes are set out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly by resolution 217A (III) on 10 December 1948.
Scottish Council on Human Bioethics
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