Suicide - make it safe?

The Scotsman reported the other day that Margo McDonald MSP has announced that she intends to bring a Member's Bill to the Scottish Parliament to change the law on assisted suicide. (See: Margo MacDonald bids to change law on aiding suicide) Currently, attempted suicide is not a crime but it is a crime in England to assist someone in an attempted or successful suicide. In Scotland, the law is apparently unclear.

McDonald suffers from Parkinsons Disease and I pray that she never gets to the point of feeling suicidal, or that if she does, there are those around to support her rather than help her to hasten her death. There are various reasons that people commit suicide and I have carried out funerals for many such people on the assumption that they were of unsound mind and not giving full consent to taking their own lives.

Often families feel that they are somehow to blame and question whether they could have done more. People are naturally horrified that any of their friends or relatives would reach such a state that they take their own lives. We naturally want to be able to reassure such families that there was nothing they could do and that it was not their fault. It is a horrifying prospect to think that families could be encouraged to help their own relatives commit suicide and think that they were doing something good.

The assumption of any move to legalise assisted suicide is that some people would be "better off dead". Legalising assisted suicide would also be a very large foot in the door to euthanasia which would soon become non-voluntary in the case of mentally incapacitated people. Intolerable pressure would also be brought to bear on those who feel themselves to be a "burden", especially with the likes of Baroness Warnock suggesting that they ought to be assisted to die.

There is a tellingly bizarre comment from Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary. (See: Assisted suicide law 'uncertain') Although she applauded McDonald for taking on this "difficult, emotive debate", she said that she was not sure that sufficient safeguards were in place to prevent the system being abused.

"Safeguards"? What will the slogan be? "Suicide - make it legal, make it safe"?

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