Scotland's assisted suicide plans are 'dangerous', says disabled MSP

Pam Duncan-Glancy

A Labour MSP has warned of the risks to disabled people if assisted suicide is legalised. 

Scotland is considering changing the law so that terminally ill people can be helped to end their lives. 

But MSP for Glasgow, Pam Duncan-Glancy, says any relaxing of current laws would be "dangerous" for her and other people who have a disability.

She is calling on the Scottish government to improve care services so that "living is better for disabled people than death".

"I am deeply worried about this. Disabled people do not yet enjoy our right to live equally. I'd far rather we had a right to live enshrined in law," she said.

She added, "This is dangerous for disabled people."

Michael Robinson, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, welcomed her comments.

"If assisted suicide is legalised in Scotland, disabled people would be put at risk. Instead of protecting vulnerable people, the legislation offers death as a substitute for love and care," he said. 

He cited 2018 data from Washington State - where assisted suicide is legal - which found that around half (51%) of people who ended their life this way said that being a burden on loved ones and caregivers was a reason. This was similar to data from Oregon, another state that allows assisted suicide, where 54.2% gave the same reason for choosing to end their lives.

"Offering people the choice to end their lives creates pressure for them to choose death," said Robinson.

"Where assisted suicide is legal, life is soon made to feel like an apparent burden on others." 

He raised doubts about the effectiveness of promised safeguards.

"Assisted suicide is not a matter of choice. Once the law is changed, safeguards can be quickly eroded," he said.

"Moreover, the expectation would soon arise that sick, disabled and elderly people should choose assisted suicide. For many, the only 'choice' to make would be death, not life.

"This legislation must be opposed, condemned and rejected outright. The law must not be changed."

In countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, where assisted suicide has been legal since 2002, the law has been expanded to include minors and those with mental health issues.