All of us are moved by cases of people suffering from terrible illnesses such as Motor Neuron Disease, but these cases do not provide justification for ripping up long held and essential protections for disabled and vulnerable people.

By treating those who are terminally ill, disabled, or have chronic conditions differently in law, we send a message that their lives are worth less than other people’s lives.

Assisted dying puts vulnerable people at risk of abuse and of coming under pressure to end their lives prematurely. That is why in 2015, MSPs overwhelmingly voted against any change in the law.

In Oregon, around 55% of those ending their lives do so because they fear being a burden on their families or carers. There are cases of those suffering from cancer being refused potential life-saving and life extending treatment, while being offered the poison to kill themselves.

READ MORE: The debate over assisted dying in Scotland is far from settled 

In Canada also, some patients have been denied medical and social care but offered drugs to take their own lives.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, which both allow euthanasia, laws have been extended from mentally competent terminally ill adults to non-mentally competent adults and even children. Most recently this was highlighted in Belgium by the case of Godelieva De Troyer (64).

She was physically healthy, but had a long and well-documented history of mental health problems. In 2012, she was euthanised without doctors consulting either her son or the psychiatrist who had cared for her for more than 20 years.

That death is now being considered by the European Court of Human Rights after a complaint by her son.

In the Netherlands, there was a case of a 74-year-old who was suffering from Dementia who was killed in 2016. The doctor allegedly failed to verify that the woman wanted to end her life, sedated the woman and asked her family to hold her down as she administered the lethal drug.

Both these cases show how assisted dying laws are operating way beyond their original intent and how patients who are not mentally competent are being killed.

READ MORE: Terminally ill Richard Selley begs MSPs to legalise assisted dying before his final journey to Dignitas  

The euthanasia movement started in Britain during the 19th Century and quickly spread to other countries, reaching its peak in the 1920s and 30s. It is estimated that around 275,000 disabled people were killed under the German T4 euthanasia programme.

After the war, euthanasia was rejected for a generation and international human rights norms were codified to recognise the inherent dignity of all human beings and sanctity of human life.

As Leo Alexander, the Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg stated: ‘It started with the acceptance by doctors of the idea, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived’.

Dr Gordon Macdonald is CEO of Care Not Killing