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Scotland: Assisted suicide could be approved over Zoom

A new assisted suicide Bill in Scotland could permit people who want to end their lives in accordance with the law to have their request granted over Zoom.

A consultation document on the proposed Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill released last month reveals that those proposing the Bill are considering the prospect of a death being signed off by video-link if the patient has difficulty travelling or otherwise is unable to see two doctors.

Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat MSP, is behind the plan.

Assisted suicide approved over Zoom

The consultation notes: “[assisted suicide] may in practice be harder to obtain for people living in small and remote communities, including island communities – particularly as travelling is likely to be particularly difficult for people with a terminal illness”.

It continues: “The process requires the direct involvement of a number of other people to carry out certain functions, for example the two independent doctor assessments at stage 1. It may be harder for a person living in a small and remote community to identify individuals who are able to attend at the relevant time and place”.

“It may also be more difficult for someone living in such a location to gain access to an alternative doctor if the only local doctor declines to assist on grounds of conscience”.

“The member [Mr McArthur] acknowledges these difficulties and is keen to hear views on how this can be mitigated”.

A footnote in the consultation document adds: “Research from permissive jurisdictions shows that assessments can be undertaken via videolink with the doctor and the patient in exceptional circumstances”.

“Utterly sinister revelations”

Chief executive of Care Not Killing, Dr Gordon Macdonald, who highlighted the footnote, said the reference to a video-link consultation “beggars belief”.

“How can a medic make a decision on the state of mind of an individual on a remote internet connection without being in the physical presence of that person to try and make a measured judgement?” he added.

He said many healthcare experts are “vehemently opposed to the Bill and are already expressing their views”.

“Legalising assisted suicide would put immeasurable pressure on vulnerable people including those with disabilities to end their lives prematurely, for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden on others”, he said.

Dr Macdonald went on to highlight passages that hint at the cost-saving potential of assisted suicide, saying: “These are utterly sinister revelations and show a callous indifference for the value of human life”.

Baroness Meacher’s assisted suicide bill

Baroness Meacher, Chair of the pro-assisted suicide group, ‘Dignity in Dying’, has launched a Private Members’ Bill on assisted suicide, which received its First Reading in the House of Lords in May this year and is set to have its Second Reading on 22 October.

If the Bill passes all its stages in the House of Lords, it has a chance of being debated in the House of Commons early next year, and could make assisted suicide legal in England.

The Prime Minister has indicated that he does not support a change in the law.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Assisted suicide legislation is a threat to the most vulnerable in our society who will, likely, increasingly see themselves as a burden. This is not speculation but something that is already happening in other jurisdictions”.

“Assisted suicide legislation is especially dangerous when the person seeking assistance in suicide does not even have to see a doctor in person to approve their application. This is so obviously open to abuse and manipulation by those with malign intent. Much like DIY home abortions, it becomes far harder to detect cases of coercion when appointments are conducted remotely rather than in person”.

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