The First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, has said his opposition to assisted suicide has hardened after speaking with a disability rights group.
Last year, the Liberal Democrat MSP, Liam McArthur, submitted a final proposal for a bill to make assisted suicide legal in Scotland. However, while the proposed bill has received backing from a number of MSPs, this week both the First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Health Secretary have stated that they are opposed to a change in the law on assisted suicide.
After meeting with a disability advocacy group, Glasgow Disability Alliance, earlier this week, Yousaf said that he felt “even less persuaded” that assisted suicide should be made legal in Scotland.
“[T]hey were incredibly strong in their opposition to assisted dying, given that they felt that they would be the ones, as they described it, that would be the thin end of the wedge when it came to assisted dying”, he said.
“They were really worried, particularly after COVID. They told me the experiences that they had in terms of Do Not Resuscitate notices. So they were really worried and put forward a very passionate plea to me as First Minister not to support assisted dying”.
“It’s something which I continue to oppose”.
Yesterday after being asked whether he supported the legalisation of assisted suicide in Scotland, Health Secretary Michael Matheson said “No, I don’t. I’ve opposed it previously”.
“It’s an issue which I’ve raised as a matter of personal conscience and it’s something which I continue to oppose”.
“Because I don’t believe it’s society’s responsibility to make those decisions”.
According to The Herald, Matheson said he was opposed because he thought such a law would put pressure on sick and disabled people to choose assisted suicide.
While the proposed assisted suicide bill has yet to be released or be voted on, the Government in Westminster might block such legislation if aspects of it were deemed to clash with legislation reserved for Westminster or have implications which would affect the whole UK.
Almost 1 in 5 Canadians said “isolation or loneliness” was a reason for wanting to die
Assisted suicide and euthanasia remain illegal in all parts of the UK. It is legal in a number of jurisdictions including the Netherlands and Canada, where 10,064 Canadians ended their lives by assisted suicide or euthanasia in 2021. This accounted for 3.3% of all deaths in the country and an increase of 32.4% from the previous year.
17.3% of people in Canada who ended their lives this way cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.7% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.
Similarly, in Oregon, which UK assisted suicide campaigners, Dignity in Dying, regularly cite as a model for rolling out legislation to the UK, among the end-of-life concerns listed by those who ended their lives, almost half (46.4%) of those who ended their lives reported being concerned about being a “[b]urden on family, friends/caregivers”, and 6.1% said they were concerned about the “[f]inancial implications of treatment”.
A study in Ireland found that almost three-quarters of people over 50 who had previously expressed a wish to die no longer had that desire two years later.
A survey conducted earlier this year of a thousand adults in Canada found 27% would support “poverty” being a reason for euthanasia and 28% would support “homelessness” being a reason for euthanasia.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “It’s encouraging that the leader of the Scottish Government and another prominent member of the Cabinet are opposed to making assisted suicide legal. Yousaf rightly recognises the danger that such legislation poses to people with disabilities who will inevitably be targeted by such legislation.”