Scottish Parliament

Prof addresses assisted suicide conference

April 29, 2014

Rev Dr Donald M MacDonald took part in a symposium on the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill organised jointly by Ampersand Advocates and the Mason Institute of Edinburgh University at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh last week.

The Symposium was attended mainly by doctors and lawyers, with some members of the public present, making an attendance throughout the day of 40-50.

The keynote address in favour of the Bill was given by Jackson Carlaw MSP, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland.

Dr MacDonald, retired Professor of Practical Theology at the Free Church College, was part of the Panel and spoke for 15 minutes on why the Bill should be rejected on the matter of principle.

He defended the Judaeo-Christian position on the sanctity of human life and argued against the emphasis on individual human autonomy which was the main basis for the Bill.

Dr Macdonald said: “Human independence is a myth – we are dependent in various ways on one another, on our environment and ultimately on God.”

He also argued that, although we might lose our subjective sense of dignity, it is impossible to lose our inherent human dignity.

The former surgeon added: “We express our true humanity in mutual caring for one another, in learning to receive as well as give care and in protecting the weak and vulnerable.

“If one person decides that, because of loss of independence, loss of dignity and loss of control of bodily functions, life is no longer worth living and gets help to end their life, this will inevitably affect society’s view of people in similar situations and put them at risk of pressure to end their lives.”

Two doctors, one of whom was Dr Stephen Hutchison of Highland Hospice, spoke against the Bill and a number of lawyers criticised the detailed provisions of the legislation, although some of them appeared to be sympathetic to its aim.

It is extremely important that members of the public respond to the call for written evidence on the Bill by the Health and Sports Committee of the Scottish Parliament as well as contact their MSPs to find out their views.

For more details on how to respond to the consultation, click here.