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Nicola Sturgeon: I'm veering against voting for assisted suicide

Assisted Suicide
3 April 2024
Nicola Sturgeon Gov Scot site photo

Scotland's former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is minded to vote against controversial assisted suicide legislation laid before the Scottish Parliament last week.

In an article for The Glasgow Times, Ms Sturgeon explained that she has been in two minds about this issue and has "rarely been as conflicted on any issue".

But she said that thinking deeply about a change in the law, and how it might play out down the line has made her sway more towards opposing the bill.

Ms Sturgeon wrote, "like most, I am deeply moved by accounts of terminally ill people, living in severe pain and distress".

"And yet so far, despite my expectations, the more deeply I think about the different issues involved, the more I find myself veering away from a vote in favour".

She added: "I worry that even with the best of intentions and the most carefully worded legislation, it will be impossible to properly guarantee that no-one at the end of their life will feel a degree of pressure, a sense that it might be better for others for them not be here – even if their loved ones try to persuade them otherwise.

"And, even more, fundamentally, I worry about the thin end of the wedge. That if we normalise assisted dying – if we come to associate dignity at the end of life with choosing to die, rather than being supported to live in as much peace and comfort as possible – then we will, as a society, lose focus on the palliative and end-of-life care and support that is necessary to help people, even in the worst of circumstances, to live with dignity. And I worry that, over time, this shift in collective mindset will see the tightly drawn provisions of this bill extended much further."

Legislation from Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur was published at Holyrood last week. It would give people aged 16 and above the right to obtain lethal drugs from doctors if they are thought to be terminally ill and meet other requirements.

CARE is opposing the bill and has warned that under the plans, a 'right to die' could become a 'duty to die'. Last week, our Scotland Policy Officer Michael Veitch said:

“The evidence of assisted suicide’s dangers is significant and has not changed since past debates in the Scottish Parliament. In fact, it has grown significantly given events in jurisdictions such as Canada. If this practice becomes an option for patients in Scotland, the ‘right to die’ could become a ‘duty to die’ for those who feel they are a burden.

“Terminal prognoses are fraught. Coercion of patients is impossible to rule out, as is expansion of legislation. Expert doctors warn that end-of-life care would be severely impacted. And disabled people warn that ‘assisted dying’ sends a regressive message about their quality of life. We urge MSPs in all parties to reject this bill at the earliest possible stage.”

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Assisted Suicide

Where assisted suicide is legal, it makes vulnerable people feel like a burden. CARE works to uphold laws that protect those people, and to assist them to live—not to commit suicide.

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