EDINBURGH, December 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Scottish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to reject the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The legislation in question, called the “End of Life Assistance” Bill, was introduced by Independent MSP Margo MacDonald in January this year. The bill sought to give blanket immunity for any person who provides “end of life assistance,” including the “provision” (assisted suicide) or “administration” (euthanasia) of appropriate means, to enable a person to die.
The bill was defeated by 85 votes to 16 with two abstentions.
Critics of the bill said that it failed to safeguard frail or elderly people who might feel coerced into seeking euthanasia, and concern was expressed that passage of the bill could lead to “suicide tourism” in Scotland, similar to that of Switzerland.
Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “I personally find myself particularly concerned and fundamentally concerned about the difficulty I think would always and inevitably be present in determining that someone choosing to end their life had not been subjected to undue influence,” according to a BBC report.
Labour MSP Michael McMahon described the bill as “dangerous and unnecessary,” while Lib Dem MSP Ross Finnie reiterated the conclusion reached by a special committee set up to study the bill that it was “not persuaded that the case had been made to decriminalise the law of homicide as it applies to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.”
Margo MacDonald is reported to have blamed the outcome of the free vote on the bill on the intervention of the Care Not Killing Alliance, a group of fifty organizations that campaigned against the bill.
“I’ll cut to the chase and condemn as unworthy and cheap, the contribution made by the publishers and authors of this catalogue of linguistic contortions, headed ‘Care not Killing’,” she said, according to BBC.
Gordon Macdonald of Care Not Killing Alliance, commented on the vote, saying, “This is a fantastic result and a victory for the most vulnerable in our community.
“The detailed scrutiny and exhaustive investigation that this bill has had over many months and the sheer magnitude of its defeat should settle this issue in Scotland for a generation.”
Macdonald said that the key argument that decided this vote and the similar votes in the House of Lords in 2006 and 2009 “is a simple one.”
“The right to die can so easily become the duty to die. Vulnerable people who are sick, elderly or disabled can so easily feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to end their lives so as not to be a burden on others. Parliament’s first responsibility is to protect the vulnerable and that is what they have voted to do today.”
Alex Schadenberg, director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, praised the work of the Care Not Killing Alliance in achieving the “phenomenal victory.”
“Our supporters need to realize that we are on a roll,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews. “In January 2010, an ‘Oregon Style’ assisted suicide bill was defeated in New Hampshire by a vote of 242 to 113. On April 21, the Canadian parliament defeated Bill C-384, a bill that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide by a vote of 228 to 59. Last week, a bill that would have legalized euthanasia in South Australia was defeated by a vote of 12 to 9. Yesterday, a bill that would have legalized euthanasia in Scotland was defeated by a vote of 85 to 16.”
“One of the reasons for the success of our campaigns has been the willingness of groups who oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, which allows physicians to directly and intentionally cause the death of people, to work together,” he said.
He added, however, “There is still much work to do.”