Church leaders and faith groups across Scotland are calling on MSPS to reject the proposed assisted dying Bill for Scotland and say it could lead to pressuring vulnerable people into ending their lives for fear of being a burden.

Among those at the forefront of the initiative are the country’s Catholic hierarchy, The Christian Institute and the leaders of Evangelical churches across the nation.

The group which represents thousands of Christian healthcare professionals has also spoken out against the contents of the Bill which will be considered at Holyrood in coming months by MSPs.

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They have urged the Scottish Parliament to reject the proposals in the Bill submitted by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur.

In a statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said: “Legalising assisted suicide, which is contrary to the dignity of the human person, would put immeasurable pressure on vulnerable people including those with disabilities to end their lives prematurely, for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden on others.

“Once passed, incremental extensions and the removal of protections and safeguards are inevitable and have happened everywhere legislation has been passed.

“Deliberately bringing about a patient’s death would be akin to crossing the Rubicon for a profession entrusted to act in the best interests of the patient and to first do no harm. 

“MSPs should be preventing suicide, not assisting it by introducing a dangerous law with deadly and irreparable consequences.”

HeraldScotland: Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur introduced the draft Bill last JuneLib Dem MSP Liam McArthur introduced the draft Bill last June

The Christian Institute, which has close to 10,000 members in Scotland,  said legalising assisted dying would pressure vulnerable people into ending their lives for fear of being a burden.

They added: "The choice to die very quickly becomes a duty to die. So-called safeguards in other jurisdictions have evaporated, often staggeringly quickly. And the drugs given to people to kill themselves can cause intense suffering. True compassion for those who are terminally ill means valuing their lives, giving them hope, and ensuring that high quality palliative care is available to everyone who needs it.”

Attempts to change legislation in Scotland in the past have failed.

Those who argued against a change in the law have said it would undermine palliative care and the risks were too high.

They claimed it could put pressure on vulnerable patients to choose the option.

Mr McArthur introduced his new draft bill in June and a consultation on its contents is taking place.

The Evangelical Alliance Scotland argued legalising assisted dying would lead to more suffering, not less.

"It would send the message to terminally ill patients that ending their life early is something they should consider, adding all sorts of unnecessary anxieties and stresses in the most vulnerable moments of someone's life," they said. "After two years of COVID-19, these pressures are the last thing we need to introduce within our palliative care services.”

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Michael Veitch, Parliamentary Officer, CARE for Scotland said: "No safeguards could ever prevent the invisible pressure on already sick and vulnerable people to consider such an option. There is also the serious and irrefutable prospect of any law passed by the Scottish Parliament being expanded down the line.

"MSPs have rejected this change twice before for these reasons, and many besides them. It must do so again with Mr McArthur’s proposals. There are many ways to help suffering people at the end of life. Giving them the means to commit suicide isn’t one of them.”

Rev Brian R More, of Newton Mearns Baptist Church, said the return of the assisted dying Bill states fresh claims for how advances in science and medicine makes assisted suicide the more compassionate way, but he added for many Christians in Scotland the opposite is true.

Rev More said: "The pandemic reframes for me the moral value and quality of all human life, that is by its God-given nature, both vulnerable and dependent at every stage of life. I want to live in a country where weakness and vulnerability isn’t a defining reason to consider the worth one's life or legitimising any reason for the need to end it. There is shallow compassion in the hope to have assisted dying in Scotland. The faux-moral sophistication around this issue is a dangerous thing. So is Liam McArthur’s reductionistic compassion of euthanasia. We have never lived in a period of history when modern medicine renders this legislation surplus to requirement.   Care, for the reasons of mercy please, not killing.”

Mr McArthur MSP said: "The level of response to my consultation has been unprecedented and shows that assisted dying is an issue that matters to people across the country. While it will take some time to validate and process responses, it appears there is strong support for a change in the law and a desire to see the Scottish Parliament take action.

"When I launched the proposals earlier this year I said that how we die is an issue for our whole society and that the consultation was in effect a nationwide discussion on what we need to do to give dying people the help and support they need to have a good death. There is clearly an appetite for that discussion and I look forward to continuing it with the public and within the Parliament over the months ahead.

"This bill is about giving dying people the help and support they need to have a good death."