Assisted Suicide Bill: Protest in Edinburgh

Legal experts and the police said a law allowing assisted suicide in Scotland needed more clarity in order to remove the risk of someone being prosecuted.

There is a “fine line” between assisting someone killing themselves and an act of euthanasia which could result in criminal charges, MSPs heard.

The plans, contained in a backbench bill, have widespread public backing, said supporters.

But opponents believed such a move was “unethical and uncontrollable”.   Assisted Suicide Bill

The Scottish government does not support a change in the law.

The Assisted Suicide Bill would give people whose lives have become intolerable through a progressive degenerative condition or terminal illness the right to seek the help of a doctor to help end their lives.

The legislation, which has begun its passage through parliament, says the final act must be carried out by the person seeking to end their own life.

But Prof Alison Britton, of the Law Society of Scotland, said a definition of assisting suicide was needed, especially in cases where someone had become too ill to end their life.  Read entire report here

Comment

Today’s TV news, on both BBC and STV, showed footage of the above protest group and another group in support of the proposal to legalise assisted suicide.

I couldn’t help comparing the above small group (mostly lay Catholics, as far as I can see)  with another group taken in 2011 at a Trident protest. Click on photo below to read report.  On that occasion, the protest was led by Cardinal O’Brien. We’ve remarked before in our newsletter that bishops are apparently willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with those opposing nuclear weapons and unemployment but standing shoulder to shoulder with pro-lifers opposing the murder of the unborn child or the murder of the elderly and disabled via euthanasia legislation (of which many, of us believe, this “assisted suicide” bill is the precursor)  seems to  be a very different (and unpopular) category of protest altogether.

CardinalObrienTridentProtestHowever, I digress.  I thought we’d launch this thread to discuss the key issues surrounding the proposal to legitimise the killing of one person by another. Can’t be called “murder” (goes the theory) if the person to be killed wishes to be put to death.

I am lost for words that medical professionals would even think of supporting such legislation  and even more lost for words to discover that there are Catholics who will be sympathetic to the idea. How do I know that? Because in every other sphere of the moral order Catholics think and act no differently from the rest of the population. Does anyone think that Catholics will rise up in their thousands to oppose this proposal to legalise yet more killing? Led by their zealous bishops? In Scotland? Really?  Let’s hear it, then, cos I’m a cynical gal. 

34 responses

  1. If half the clergy and Catholics in the country had made anything like a realistic resistance to abortion we wouldn’t now be facing wholesale euthanasia. From a purely economic and humanistic point of view, it makes sense to kill off the sick and elderly; they don’t contribute economically to the country and it costs a lot to keep them. We have slaughtered in the millions those who should now be supporting the aged population. There’s an horrific logic to the whole thing. The chickens are well and truly coming home to roost for the selfish generation.

    • Therese,

      Exactly. If Catholics had acted quickly and persevered in their opposition, the abortion act could not have come into being.

      You are so right about the “horrific logic” – with bells on…

  2. Let’s ‘give granny the gas-pipe’!

    Well, it’s OK to kill people before they’re born, so what’s wrong with killing them before they die? Good job we have the ‘experts’ who keep assuring us there is ‘no anti-life slippery slope’…

  3. Therese hits the nail on the head. Unfortunately this malign spirit is already abroad in society,when you hear terms like “Bed blockers” or “Do not resussitate” been casually used in the media or amongst medical staff or when an elderly stroke victims family can be asked whether or not they would like a drip up. which bye the way is an invitation to thirst and starve a loved one in order to shorten their life you begin to wonder how many in the future will be allowed to die of old age!

    I suppose in a sense that it is the horrific logic of Darwins theory of evolution playing out.

  4. I mentioned over a year ago on one of these threads that I was bored listening about the elderly outnumbering the young on an almost daily basis. Maybe because I am feeling guilty of taking up too much space now. No mention was ever made as to why this imbalance occurred: through the modern day slaughter of the innocents.

    I suggested that it was a way of softening up the public to pave a way for euthanasia just as they did for a number of years prior to bringing in abortion by publishing the number of women dying by “back-street” abortions.

    The time has now arrived to make their move knowing that the public, including a large majority of catholics, are ripe for the picking and nothing will now stop them.

    They tell us to stop smoking, drinking, eating too much and even stop sniffing glue (my only bad habit) so that we can live longer. That eventually gives us the choice to either pick euthanasia or sell our hard earned property to be looked after in a nursing home because we have lived too long.

    It`s a good job the country is being run by useless idiots, that way you don`t need to listen to them.

    If it wasn`t so comical it would be serious.

  5. On the one hand, there are groups, such as Pieta House, who are trying to stop young people (and maybe not-so-young people), and particularly men, from ending their own lives by suicide, and on the other hand you have groups who are trying to make it legal for someone else to do so! The mind boggles. I remember a conversation I had with a woman some years ago. This woman was looking forward to the day when people who were suffering could be “put down” by lethal injection. I told her in no uncertain terms that one one was going to get the opportunity to put me down, and something of a heated exchange ensued. This woman gets a monetary allowance to mind people with disabilities.

  6. Scotland is not an anomaly. Like all other European countries, with perhaps the notable exception of Poland, it has completely forsaken God’s Law, through abortion, same sex marriage and now this. No disabled, elderly, or terminally disabled person will be safe, and their protection will no longer be guaranteed. They will be subtly led to think that they are a burden, that their life is not a sacred or worthy as the able-bodied people. It will also lead to a slippery slope: in the Netherlands, all can obtain euthanasia above the age of 12, albeit with parental consent for those between 12-16, and in Belgium, euthanasia was legalised in 2002, for those in ‘intolerable pain’, then it was extended last year to those with Alzheimer’s (which would require the consent of relatives as the patients are not of sound mind) and people of all ages as long as these conditions were met:

    Patient must be conscious of their decision

    Request must be approved by parents and medical team

    Illness must be terminal

    Patient must be in great pain with no treatment available to alleviate their distress

    This is despite the fact that 160 paediatricians signed an open letter saying that this is not needed as modern palliative care can alleviate pain and suffering. They have also expressed concern about vulnerable children, and if they can really be mature enough to make such a decision. Indeed the Royal College of Physicians in the U.K has opposed euthanasia/ assisted dying. Doctors are not murderers. The job of a doctor is to uphold and defend life, and to ‘do no harm’ as the Hippocratic Oath states. What the Nazis did in the privacy of sanatoria to the disabled, is now being done openly and brazenly, and the Western world, ruled by a disturbing suicide cult, bent on sodomising, aborting, contracepting and euthanising itself out of existence, has already outstripped the Nazis in doing human beings do death. I am sure that the antics of today would make the likes of Hitler blush. There is enough pressure on those with disabilities today through government spending cuts to the welfare state, social housing, organisations such as Remploy and benefits. The disabled have also been humiliated through the Atos welfare to work examinations. The disabled are vulnerable enough. LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!

  7. CC

    I agree with most of what you say, but your defence of doctors is rather too generous, I feel. So many of them have been slaughtering the most defenceless for nearly 50 years. I don’t think they have been taking the Hippocratic Oath for some years now. Abortion put paid to that.

    That’s not to say that there are not still doctors who have a conscience and who do abide by the principles contained in that Oath.

  8. Also, CC, I do think that belief in God is fundamental to the argument regarding euthanasia. If one doesn’t believe in God, and therefore in the hope of heaven, I can understand those who cannot see the point in suffering a slow and lingering death.

    I would also say that although I do believe that most modern palliative care can alleviate terrible suffering, this is not 100% true in every case. My mother suffered a form of cancer which was not conducive to modern methods of pain relief. She suffered greatly. I can say that at no time was I tempted to end her suffering by killing her, despite loving her desperately and wanting her to be at peace. I knew, as did she, that her life belonged to God, not to her, and not to me. Naturally, atheists do not agree, and I think it’s a mistake to argue that modern medical science has the answer to all “unbearable” suffering and that this is not a Christian matter. It is.

    • Therese,

      Absolutely spot on. You are totally correct. In fact, I’ve been saying over and over again in recent months, when the subject has come up, that the thing which allegedly causes atheists and agnostics the greatest difficulty when they consider the question of the existence of God – human suffering – is the very thing that makes the case FOR the existence of God. Without God, there is simply no meaning, purpose or rationale to suffering – at any time in our lives but especially when we reach our end of life suffering. Why not just pick the day and the hour and slip away as peacefully as possible, if there is nothing but oblivion on the other side?

      Leaving God out of the equation has cost the pro-lifers dear as the results, generally speaking, of their efforts to end the abortion slaughter reveals. God, seeing that they placed Him aside, has let them get on with it and their lack of success in ending the state sanctioned murder of the unborn is painfully obvious for all to see. Catholics must not make the same mistake in the euthanasia/assisted suicide debate. We offend God at our personal and national peril if we kill the disabled, whether before birth or to bring about their death prematurely in old age. We must not be afraid to say that to all and sundry, in season and out of season.

    • Thank you Louise! Coming from a pro-life activists such as yourself, that means a lot. We’ve missed you! Don’t disappear again, now!

  9. It is indeed difficult to argue with these dead souls on why suicide is wrong.

    It is not our choice and is a dreadful sin against Him, who gave us life and HIm who it is who can only withdraw it.

    But I think it is also a grave error to argue with the dead souls on their platform of economics, health etc.

    Killing is big business in this age of ‘enlightenment and science’: But we can’t call it that.

    If fire and brimstone was thrown upon Sodom and Gomorrah, then what is in store for this age?

    • Summa,

      I think, obviously, that we should use every argument under the sun to protect human life at its most dangerous points (pre-birth and end of life) – it is not difficult to show, e.g. how the contraceptive mentality has led to these killings: once the value of a human life is measured by how many dollars we make, everything is up for grabs. Two salaries and two (at most) children necessary to live the “lifestyle” and too costly by far to nurse the aged through to natural death, when they offspring are out making those dollars and the health service is creaking to death itself because there is a marathon shortage of young people to help care for the sick and dying, whether at home or in hospital.

      As Therese said, there is an horrific logic to the euthanasia mentality. Truly horrific. The thing is, we should use all arguments to fight it, just don’t forget the most important one – God and His Law.

    • Good grief, Summa – I’ve nearly choked on me tea! I hope you don’t think I’m arguing about the economics of death! Economics isn’t even the argument that the pro-death side dare use – not yet, at least, but it’s a huge factor in the push for further and increased euthanasia. Apparently I didn’t make clear enough.

      • Therese,

        I don’t think Summa meant you – I think he was just making the point raised by CC that we use other arguments, not God and Summa was disagreeing with that not with you. At least that’s how I read it. Who could misunderstand your post, it was crystal clear – and I agreed with it completely. IMHO, you said it all!

      • Hi Therese
        I’m late to this discussion but find the whole range of comments interesting. My own understanding of modern medicine is this: that assisted termination of life already exists, that it is taken for granted as acceptable but is dressed up according to the arena in which it finds itself:

        abortion – freedom of choice for a woman, emergency contraception

        economic murder – do not resuscitate, clinical consensus, ‘pain-relief’.

        etcetera

        My other comments concerning our methodology of debate with the murderers are not intended to deride anything that pro-lifers are doing, just a position I hold that we cannot really hope of winning using secular arguments. The same applies to winning Christendom by dialogue and giving credibility to animism, Islam, Buddhism, Scientology etc

        Hold fast to tradition (and I would say so through Thomism).

        As an aside, from afar, I view with horror what is happening in Scotland with the promotion of homosexuality, infringement on the family and other areas or more or equal concern.

        A protestant once said that Scotland is a wee dark homosexual nation. Prescient?

  10. Thanks very much Margaret Mary – I’ll dry my tears and tear up my letter of reproach to Summa. I’d just got to page 42 so I’m glad you’ve caught me before I got to the main points.

  11. Margaret Mary has it. I was not being critical consciously of anyone on here.
    I was making a general (and vague!) comment that alas, we have reached an age where I think we can no longer argue using God, without being perceived as lunatics. The danger of that is to sink to the slime and argue using only the secular. Hardly right or fair or honorable to Our Lord.

    The more we embroil ourselves in purely secular arguments of morality, the more we get involuntarily shifted with the worlds conceptions of morality. The goalposts keep moving so to speak and we find ourselves in quicksand.

    Hold fast to Christ and the Gospel, as we have argued that the Bishops in the Synod should do.

  12. I hope I’m not misinterpreted, but I am surprised at how few comments appear on your pro-life threads, editor, something I believe you’ve commented on yourself in the past. I’m late getting here myself but it just strikes me how few of the regulars attach much importance to the pro-life debate, especially this one on assisted suicide because it will affect us all. I get a sense of the apathy here that allowed the Abortion Act to be passed in the sixties.

    I want to say that I do agree that God should not be left out of the argument about any pro-life issue, but if we make that the first argument, it could be counter productive, with people writing us off as God-botherers and bible bashers.

    I am particularly shocked that there are doctors coming round to supporting this evil, because at the beginning they were opposed. It just shows that people can be worn down by the pressures of the lobbyists.

    Should we all put something in writing for our doctors to make sure we’re not “assisted” to die before our time?

    • Hi Nicky

      You comment that…I want to say that I do agree that God should not be left out of the argument about any pro-life issue, but if we make that the first argument, it could be counter productive, with people writing us off as God-botherers and bible bashers.

      But God always comes first. Martyrs are martyrs because of their fidelity and love of God. The least catholics can do is to be upfront with our Love of God and yes take the abuse. But we are not denying God or disguising him through fear or shame or pressure.

      and

      I am particularly shocked that there are doctors coming round to supporting this evil, because at the beginning they were opposed. It just shows that people can be worn down by the pressures of the lobbyists.

      Hence my comment above about arguing in the secular. The goal posts move. You’re arguing on quicksand.

      Thanks Nicky, interesting points.

      • Summa,

        I get your point. I agree, God always comes first I was just trying to think of how it might go if we begin by mentioning God, but maybe that is the right thing to do and tough luck if they don’t like what they hear. I’ll try it next time the subject comes up. I have tended to go down the “we’re a very selfish society, this is the slippery slope” etc road so maybe some fire and brimstone will be good for a change!

        • Hi Nicky

          Whether there is efficacy in the approach is another question, but you can be sure that God will be pleased. Our priest mentioned something along these lines last night at catechism class, where he said that if for instance you were in a group of pagans and you plucked up the courage to profess your faith on a point, God’s love will increase for you and He will give you the Grace to persevere.

          He also mentioned that (we were discussing predestination – the elect and the reprobate) it is on these occasions that God is providing an opportunity for the non-believers to turn to him, through you, and it is then down to their free will to turn aside or follow God.

          God Bless

          Summa

      • Therese,

        I always think Catholics think the pro-life issues are too “obvious” if you know what I mean, and everyone would know they are against assisted suicide and euthanasia/abortion but I think it’s important to put our oar in at every opportunity. Also the more facts we can share on this blog the more ammunition we have for the battle.

        I do understand that bloggers have their own favourite topics, so I’m not meaning to get at anyone. I’m sure I’ve not commented on every thread, LOL!

        • Nicky,

          Not only might bloggers have their own favourite topics, but they also have other duties to attend to; they may even be enjoying themselves somewhere, the selfish blighters, but since blogging is not (as far as I’m aware) listed as the Eleventh commandment or named as the Eighth Deadly Sin, (“Not Blogging” ) it might be advisable not to highlight the fact if you think the absentees should stop being absentees, if you get my drift. Yes, I have, in the past, expressed surprise that comparatively few comment on both the pro-life threads and the devotional threads (and I’m always surprised that so few of the official pro-lifers comment) but it’s obviously not made a blind bit of difference, so we ought to forget about those who are NOT here and focus on the sainted souls who ARE here… THEY’LL be the ones getting the pay rises and Easter bonuses, after all… 😀

          I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments here and I’m sure anyone in the “not sure” category will have plenty to think about, as this subject returns to the forefront over the months to come.

  13. Some of us are absent because we just can’t get here. I love this blog but my circumstances keep me away a lot these days.

    As for the Assisted Suicide bill, it’s just another step towards a wholesale euthanasia programme. Hitler would be proud of its supporters.

  14. I think a lot of us feel there is nothing we can do about assisted suicide, it’s a foregone conclusion, just as the redefinition of marriage bill proved to be. The majority of the Scots people said “no” but we got it anyway, and the same thing will happen with this AS bill. I’m sure of it.

    All the talk about this being a democracy is pure nonsense. We live in a secular totalitarian state, IMHO.

    • Yes, you are quire right Danielle. I hesitate to quote Rousseau, but nonetheless his opening of the Social Contract “Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains” reminds us that certain forms of society fabricate notions of empowerment for the people but are without substance.
      Scotland and so many other nations basically operate on Executive Governance: they will just do as they please.

      It’s furthermore an interesting point Danielle makes, because it reminds us of our duties as Catholics. I foresee a time when we will be banned from wearing crucifixes publicly, smuggled in under some legislation about religious symbolism and a secular state. We must however act in line with the laws of the Church in everything we do, regardless if some reprobate tells us otherwise.

  15. I’ve been busy meeting with MSP’s and writing letters to them so haven’t had time to blog.
    Maybe that’s why there are not so many comments on the is issue?

    I like the slogan that a one of the campaigners held up at Edinburgh
    Sitting in her wheel chair her sign said “I need more assisted living” or words to that effect…

    • Clotilde,

      It would be wonderful to think there were so few comments on our Life issues threads because all the pro-lifers were badgering the politicians, but I doubt very much if they are all (or many of them) as busy as you – you, with Wendy Walker, are one (or two ! ) in a million, methinks.

      Love the slogan “I need more assisted living” – brilliant.

  16. Ed,
    Very good article from COS Minister! ( Where are the catholic Clergy articles….?)

    Why, as a church, we are utterly opposed to the right to die law

    By Reverend Sally Foster Fulton
    Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council

    Daily Mail, Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    We in the Church of Scotland are no strangers to people who are close to death. Our ministers and other staff spend much time alongside them and feel their pain.

    The Church is therefore sympathetic towards the fears and desires of those who may be afraid of a death which is painful, or where people fear the sense of dependency or powerlessness which may characterise various degenerative diseases.

    However we are clear that what is proposed in the Scottish parliament to introduce assisted-dying legislation is not the best solution. Rather, there is a need to ensure that, as far as possible, all have access to good palliative care.

    This, in the deepest sense, involves caring not just for the physical but also the emotional and spiritual needs of people coming towards the end of their lives.

    There is also a need to accept the inevitability of death, and that there are times when medical interventions are inappropriate and themselves can lead to the loss of dignity and self that is often feared.

    The Church fundamentally disagrees with the proposed legislation, which represents much more than simply a tinkering with the law.

    Such legislation, breaching as it does the societal prohibition on the taking of human life, carries implications for the whole of society and for attitudes to many aspects of health and social care.

    It has profoundly negative implications for the most vulnerable in society, who may already feel voiceless and marginalised.

    Implications

    These implications, and the concerns of those who will be most directly affected, must carry as much importance as the views expressed by those who are pushing for a change in the law.

    We are concerned that, in many ways, the proposed legislation currently before the Scottish parliament is even more open to abuse than was the previous Bill brought by Margo MacDonald, which was decisively rejected by MSPs in 2010.

    For example, the use of very broad terminology such as ‘lifeshortening’ as a qualifying condition for eligibility.

    People with diabetes or epilepsy die younger than average, so could therefore be defined as people qualifying for assisted suicide under the currently proposed Bill.

    In addition, following criticisms of the provision for assessments of the mental health of those seeking assisted suicide in the previous version of the Bill, rather than make any attempt to tighten or improve that aspect of the Bill, the response of the proposers has simply been to remove any requirement for an assessment of mental health at all.

    The law as it stands in Scotland, which makes it an offence for anybody to assist another person to attempt or complete suicide, is straightforward.

    To allow for provision of assistance in some circumstances would mean that there is always the possibility of abuse of any ‘safeguards’ included.

    The motivations of all those involved would need to be assessed, which may be difficult.

    Dealing with the extremely challenging journey often travelled towards the end of one’s life, both financial and emotional, pressures may be brought to bear by families, society at large or, indeed, the individual him/herself, that the best and most honourable thing to do would be to seek assistance to die. Such suggestions may be difficult to unpack and the ‘right to die’ could be confused with a perceived ‘duty to die’.

    We need to explore in more detail how society understands, communicates and discusses death, dying and bereavement.

    One of the issues which a debate such as this reveals is the sense of loss of control which patients and their families sometimes feel as death approaches.

    We must beware of medical models which can depersonalise; and we also need to avoid inappropriately aggressive medical interventions as people near the end of their lives: the (sometimes implicit) view that every death is a medical failure needs to be challenged.

    Care is spiritual as well as physical. There is a great fear of a painful death, which can be mitigated, although not always completely removed, by palliative care.

    Legislation

    In addition, it is clear that the ultimate intention, if any such legislation were introduced, would be that the categories of those eligible for assistance to die would be extended.

    In addition, we would wish to express concern about illnesses such as dementia, in which there may be minimal medical treatment or intervention but a high need for care, which may be expensive.

    While it would never be put in such stark terms by its advocates, assisted dying saves money – for health boards or for relatives, it could come to be seen as the cheapest option. ‘

    We need to ensure the protection of the weak and vulnerable, of people who cannot argue against being led down a particular route – remembering that not every family is a supportive and caring family, seeking the best for their relative.

    One of the most concerning aspects of this proposed legislation is that it requires members of the medical and allied professions, such as pharmacists, to be active participants in the process of assisted suicide.

    This is an unhelpful and potentially detrimental confusing of roles.

    It is clear that there is a role for the medical profession in supporting people at the end of their lives.

    However that role should not include the intentional ending of life.

    The great majority of healthcare professionals and their representative bodies have consistently opposed legalising assisted suicide.

    Requiring members of the medical profession to be involved in intentionally ending life would fundamentally change the relationship between medical professionals and the society they serve.

    This is a point of principle which goes beyond the individual practitioner and the individual patient.

    While a conscience clause would enable individuals to opt out of participation in this process, there would also be practical problems for example, in rural areas where alternative practitioners may not be available. It would also be a problem in urban areas where, if the patient’s own doctor refused to participate, the patient would have to go outwith the care they have depended on to try to find a doctor prepared to do it.

    Much of our opposition to assisted-dying legislation is motivated by a concern for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society.

    While the articulate and those with supportive families can get their voices heard, what of the marginalised?

    Prejudice

    Prejudice against disabled people is already widespread and their quality of life underrated.

    Will this proposed legislation encourage doctors and nurses to explore fully the concerns of the disabled and fight for their full lives – or will it undermine this work?

    Will those in our communities with disabilities get suicide prevention or suicide assistance?

    While recognising that medicine is constantly improving our ability to deal with physical pain, we need also to be aware that the anguish around death is much more than a fear of pain.

    Palliative care, which takes care of all aspects of the person, needs to be made more widely available.

    No amount of ‘safeguards’ will ever be able completely to prevent abuse of a law which allows the deliberate ending of the life of another person.

    The current law, through its acceptance that some may wish to take their own lives, but its blanket prohibition of assisting another person to attempt or complete suicide, is clear – and provides a strong disincentive to abuse and exploitation while allowing prosecutors and judges discretion in difficult cases.

    It does not, in the Church’s opinion, need changing.

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