Bishop Keenan on 'damaging' assisted suicide Bill

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.

WATCH: Euthanasia - A Warning from Canada

Alex Schadenberg spoke at a specially arranged Webinar on Wednesday (13 March) about the dangers of legalising assisted suicide.

Watch it below or on YouTube.

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Alex is one of the world’s premier opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide and is visiting Scotland to highlight the dangers of Euthanasia.

With Liam McArthur MSP planning to publish his proposed Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill imminently, Alex warned of the dangers of Scotland following the example of Canada in legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia.

About the Speaker
Alex Schadenberg is one of the world’s premier opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide. He is the co-founder and executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, founded in 1998 and based in the Canadian Province of Ontario. He produced The Euthanasia Deception, a documentary exploring 15 years of euthanasia legalisation in Belgium. He has spoken on the subject across the world and in more than 25 US States. Alex organized the first conference on euthanasia at the European parliament in November 2022.

Euthanasia: A Warning from Canada

Alex Schadenberg is one of the world’s premier opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

With Liam McArthur MSP planning to publish his proposed Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill imminently, Alex will warn of the dangers of Scotland following the example of Canada in legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia.

This 30 minute free webinar is brought to you by Care Not Killing and the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. Register here.

Webinar on the dangers of Assisted Suicide

A webinar titled 'Assisted Suicide: The Dangers' will consider the outcome of the potential legalising of assisted suicide in Scotland, and what you can do to help prevent it.

It takes place this Thursday (31 August) at 7:00pm and you can register here.

Liam McArthur MSP is expected to publish proposals to legalise assisted suicide later this year

This webinar will consider what those proposals will look like and, breaking them down, explain why assisted suicide is a very bad idea.

It aims to equip you with the key arguments against assisted suicide and provide you with advice on how to share your concerns most effectively with MSPs.

Speakers

Dr Gillian Wright is a former palliative care doctor in Glasgow who now works as a researcher in medical ethics for the Scottish Council for Human Bioethics. Gillian also works for Care not Killing as the Director of their campaign Our Duty of Care which brings together health care professionals opposed to the introduction of assisted suicide and euthanasia. 

Brian Cairns is a retired teacher with trade union experience. Brian has previous involvement with local community political campaigning and, along with members of St Margaret’s Church Clydebank and the wider community, has established a campaign group to oppose proposals to legalise assisted suicide.

Anthony Horan is Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. Anthony, a qualified lawyer, has significant experience in political engagement on a wide range of issues, including assisted suicide. Anthony is also a member of the Care Not Killing steering group.

For further details and to register, please click here. Webinar organised by the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office.

Assisted Suicide: The Dangers

Later this year Liam McArthur MSP is expected to publish proposals to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

Join us for this webinar to consider what those proposals will look like and, breaking them down, explain why assisted suicide is a very bad idea.

We aim to equip you with the key arguments against assisted suicide and provide you with advice on how to share your concerns most effectively with MSPs.

Online, Thursday 31 August at 7:00pm. Register here

Speakers

Dr Gillian Wright is a former palliative care doctor in Glasgow who now works as a researcher in medical ethics for the Scottish Council for Human Bioethics. Gillian also works for Care not Killing as the Director of their campaign Our Duty of Care which brings together health care professionals opposed to the introduction of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Brian Cairns is a retired teacher with trade union experience. Brian has previous involvement with local community political campaigning and, along with members of St Margaret’s Church Clydebank and the wider community, has established a campaign group to oppose proposals to legalise assisted suicide.

Anthony Horan is Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. Anthony, a qualified lawyer, has significant experience in political engagement on a wide range of issues, including assisted suicide. Anthony is also a member of the Care Not Killing steering group.

Event organised by the Catholic Parliamentary Office for Scotland.

Archbishop's Pastoral Letter on Euthanasia

Read Archbishop Leo Cushley's pastoral letter on assisted suicide, below.

The letter is a response to a proposed Bill in the Scottish Parliament to legalise assisted suicide. It will undermine the right to life and put vulnerable people at risk of coming under pressure to end their lives prematurely.

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To all the faithful of the
Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh

My dear friends,

The Scottish Parliament is considering proposals to legalise what is being called “assisted dying”. This is really a form of euthanasia that would allow a doctor or medical professional to help someone commit suicide. If this law is passed, it will further erode how our society values human life, which has already been grievously undermined by legal abortion.

Those who advocate euthanasia often portray it as a purely personal choice which should be a private matter between individuals and their doctors. Yet the truth is that our decisions and actions are never wholly private. Everything we do affects everyone else for good or ill. As St. Paul reminds us: “The life and death of each of us has its influence upon others" (Romans 14:7). Our attitudes to life at its very beginnings and at its very end will inevitably shape how we approach life at every stage in between, and this in turn well affect what sort of society we build together.

The laws we make about how we treat those who are approaching death will gradually inform how human life is valued in every respect.

The consequences of legalising assisted suicide are likely to be serious and wide-reaching, as experience in other countries already shows. In Canada euthanasia was legalised in 2016 with strict limits, applying only to adults who are terminally ill and in exceptional physical pain. Yet within just five years it has been extended to include those with chronic illnesses or disabilities. In Belgium and the Netherlands, the scope of legal euthanasia has been further widened to include people suffering from mental illness and, most alarmingly, this can even apply to teenagers and children.

Legalising euthanasia would send a message across the whole of society that lives which entail physical and mental suffering, or severe physical disabilities, can be considered no longer worth living. This is not only wrong in principle – for no life is worthless – it could also have a terrible and tragic effect on vulnerable individuals at their weakest moments.

The availability of “assisted dying” in our hospitals and care homes will damage the relationship of trust between medical professionals and their patients, and it will also undermine trust within families. Those who are frail and elderly easily think that they are a burden on others and may feel pressurised into asking for help to end their lives.

Someone does not need to believe in God in order to understand these points, but in the light of our faith we can see even more compelling reasons to reject euthanasia. Life is God’s gift to each one of us. “We are stewards, not owners, of the life that God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.” (CCC2280/1).

It is true that the prospect of terminal suffering can provoke deep dread, even leading to despair, and we are by no means uncaring about the distress endured by those who face debilitating diseases. But the desire to take death into our own hands, however understandable, is really a failure of trust in divine providence, and is “contrary to our love for the living God”. (CCC2281).

Dying is, ironically perhaps, the most significant event of our lives, because it is in dying that we most clearly confront the fact that we are fragile creatures, dependent upon others, and that we are not ultimately in charge of our own destiny. This is why we have a special sacrament of anointing by which the Lord offers us his own strength and peace at such times of existential crisis, and it is also why we should surround the dying with our prayers and the best of care.

There have been considerable advances in end-of-life palliative care in recent years, but there is a real risk that the introduction of legalised suicide would gradually diminish funding for hospices with their wonderful and dedicated staff. It is also likely to reduce investment in further important research into pain management.

The overwhelming evidence is that persistent requests for assisted suicide are extremely rare when people’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs are adequately met.

This is an issue of the utmost gravity that affects all of us individually and collectively. St. John Paul II warned that: “It is urgently necessary, for the future of society…to rediscover those…moral values which…express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority, and no state can ever create, modify, or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect, and promote.” (Evangelium vitae 71)

I urge you, as a matter of Christian duty to make known your opposition to this legislation by signing the petition in your Church. The arguments for legalising "assisted dying" are presented as being compassionate and humanistic, but if this law is passed it will undoubtedly further undermine the value our society places on human life, profoundly affecting how we treat those who are suffering and how we care for those who are dying.

Sincerely in the Lord,

+ Leo Cushley
Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

A downloadable PDF of the pastoral letter is available here. Sign the petition in your Church or at carenotkilling.scot

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