Friday, January 22, 2010

Dr. Peter Saunders, the director of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK made the following comment to the scotsman.com. Saunders points out that the language is so wide that the bill includes euthanasia and assisted suicide and it can be used on people with disabilities, chronic conditions, or terminally ill.

These were Peter Saunders comments:
What immediately struck me about the bill is its coyness. It doesn't spell what sort of "end-of-life assistance" a "designated practitioner" may provide. Is it assisted suicide (where the person takes prescribed lethal drugs) or euthanasia (where the doctor gives a lethal injection)? The vague wording actually covers both.

The bill is full of detail about the bureaucracy – who can and cannot be a witness, how many days must elapse between successive requests and what constitutes "a positive report" from a psychiatrist. But on the crucial issue of how the deed is to be done, we are simply told that "the requesting person and the designated practitioner must agree on the means by which assistance is to be provided". Are we to infer that any means at all are acceptable? Surely not. Scotland's Parliament and people are entitled to know exactly what is intended here. This is far too serious a matter for euphemisms.

We have here a bill that is very similar, not to the Oregon assisted suicide law that is so much in favour with the euthanasiasts in England, but to the more virulent Dutch model. Ms MacDonald claims that her bill would lead to no more than 50 deaths a year in Scotland. Dutch experience suggests that the number could be as many as 1,500.

The catchment area for Ms MacDonald's bill is very wide, comprising as it does anyone who is not just terminally ill, but "permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently". What sort of message does this send to disabled people and to others dependent on friends or relatives? It says: "If you cannot live without help, you are a candidate for having your life ended." Ms MacDonald may be well-intentioned, but this bill is simply too dangerous.

• Peter Saunders is director of Care Not Killing Alliance.

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