Letter: Yes, safeguards will fail

Sir – I wish to reiterate my conviction that safeguards in a Scottish assisted suicide law will fail. Not due to some baseless premonition, as Iain Stuart suggests (Letters, September 4), but rather due to logic – every human system inherently involves error, including healthcare. And because of evidence from Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other jurisdictions regarding abuses against the vulnerable, and the erosion of rules. We must learn from this.

The likelihood of failings is compounded by the challenges our society faces: growing economic hardship, a loneliness epidemic, rocketing pressure on public services, and deeply rooted inequalities affecting disabled people. Previous bills failed not only because of the inadequacy of safeguards, as Mr Stuart helpfully admits, but also due to a Pandora’s Box of problems relating to various spheres of life. A law change is simply too dangerous.

Mr Stuart says he is “confident” that safeguards in Scotland will “ensure that assisted dying will only occur safely and in the most scrupulously controlled circumstances”. Does he really believe Scotland would do what no other country has done and implement an assisted suicide law with no abuses? I don’t think this exceptionalism is merited, or helpful given the gravity of what is being considered. Wrongful deaths cannot be undone.

Campaigners for assisted suicide will have disliked my description of “handing people poison”. They seek, via rhetoric and misleading language, to sanitise what is involved. Namely: vulnerable people being handed lethal drugs to ingest in front of anguished loved ones. Drugs that can take many hours to work and result in awful complications, including vomiting and seizures. I do not accept that this is a ‘dignified death’.

People suffering towards the end of life deserve better than this. Through wise decision making and investment, our political leaders can ensure that every Scot has access to quality palliative care, counselling, and other truly compassionate forms of support. I’d urge every MSP to choose the light of this path over the darkness of assisted suicide.


Jamie Gillies

This letter was sent to The Courier on Tuesday 5 September 2023, in reply to a letter published the previous day. Available to view at Press Reader.

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