Conversations around the sanctity of life and the dignity of dying well are coming to a head in Scottish politics this month as the government holds a public consultation on the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill. Whilst we at the Evangelical Alliance recognised the complexity of the issues and need for compassion for all those involved, we do have deep concerns about the government proposals because we believe at the heart of the debate lies the truth that God values and gives significance to all human life.

The Bill proposes that a person diagnosed with a terminal illness is given the choice to end their own life by means of medication provided by a doctor for that purpose”. It defines someone who is terminally ill as having a progressive disease which can reasonably be expected to cause their death”, as diagnosed professionally by a registered practitioner. We are struck by the word expected” as it implies a lack of certainty.

Although medical professionals work diligently to provide dependable, well-grounded prognoses and care for patients, medical predictions of life expectancy can be mutable and erratic. It is not uncommon for a terminally ill patient to outlive their diagnosis by many years. This may be the result of a mistaken diagnosis, unexpected remission, or the development of new treatment or medications. If a person is prescribed lethal medication, as proposed by the Bill, their expectancy of death becomes determined and irreversible. Gone is the potential for unexpected recovery or medical discoveries.

Assisted suicide is not a solitary act. It’s a matter of public concern because it involves at least one person facilitating the death of another. Friends, relatives, medical professionals and society itself would all be affected.


The criteria proposed in the Bill aims to make suicide rational and worthy of legal assistance through the safeguard” that an adult must have a settled and uncoerced” will to kill themselves. But we are concerned that a right to die” could easily become a duty to die” for many vulnerable and terminally ill patients. 

Rather than promoting individual autonomy or compassion, as is the intention of the Bill, changing the law to allow assisted suicide would inevitably – even if unintentionally – place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives, for example in fear of becoming a financial or emotional burden’ on those they love. These subtle patterns of thought may become impossible for our society to extricate.

While Scotland places great value on palliative care, there is more work the Scottish Government could do to improve palliative care services instead of legalising assisted suicide. In his End of Life series, Professor John Wyatt talks about how proposed assisted dying bills shine an uncomfortable spotlight on the inadequate levels of care” that are provided for many people in the UK. We would ask the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts to resource and equip medical professionals with the medicine and materials required to bring sustainable comfort for terminally ill patients who are in both physical and emotional pain.

To make your views known on the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill, we’d encourage you, your church or organisation to respond to the public consultation which closes on Wednesday, 22 December. CARE (Christian Action, Research, and Education) have produced a helpful consultation guide which can help you answer the questions within it.