The Catholic Church has responded to the publication of “The Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill” by Liam McArthur MSP (above right).

Bishop John Keenan, the Bishop of Paisley (above left) has described it as “a dangerous idea that a citizen can lose their value and worth.”

His full statement is below.

“Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur has today published a damaging bill which attacks human dignity and introduces a dangerous idea that a citizen can lose their value and worth.

The Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill may refer to ‘assisted dying’, but this is a euphemistic term which doesn’t accurately describe the reality.

Assisted dying is already practised by our health professionals and organisations, in the form of palliative care.

An accurate term for what the Bill seeks to legalise is assisted suicide.

It is a law which will allow a doctor to provide a patient with a lethal cocktail of drugs to kill themselves.

Implicit in assisted suicide is that the value of human life is measured by efficiency and utility and not by dignity.

In crude terms, it means an individual can lose their value to society because of illness or disability.

We are called to care for those who suffer, including those at the end of life.

In this way, the appropriate response of civic society to suffering is not to facilitate death by prescription, but rather, to provide good, reliable care, including palliative care, for all those who need it.

Assisted suicide sends a message that there are situations when suicide is an appropriate response to one’s individual circumstances, worries, anxieties.

It normalises suicide and accepts that some people are beyond hope. 

Furthermore, assisted suicide undermines trust in doctors and damages the doctor- patient relationship. And in countries where assisted suicide is legal, there is evidence that vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled, experience external pressure to end their lives.

In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, it is common for around half of people to list fear of being a burden as one reason for hastening their death.

It is little wonder that most major disability organisations in the UK are opposed to assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is also uncontrollable.

Every country where assisted suicide or euthanasia is legal has seen so-called ‘safeguards’ eroded and eligibility criteria expanded to include people with arthritis, anorexia, autism, dementia.

And also, children.

When vulnerable people, including the elderly, poor and disabled, express concerns about being a burden, the appropriate response is not to suggest that they have a duty to die; rather, it is to commit to meeting their needs and providing the care and compassion they need to help them live.

This Bill has been introduced in Holy Week, when Christians reflect on the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the man who is their Lord and God and showed us what it means to be truly human.

Where Liam McArthur’s Bill sees little point in human suffering and promotes the idea that a person’s life can become so hopeless as to be no longer worthwhile, this week is a timely reminder that when we support each other in suffering it can lead to a truly dignified death and offer the best of hope and possibility for our world.”

Bishop John Keenan is vice president of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and Bishop President for Marriage, Families and Life.