Disabled activists believe they may be winning the argument against a proposed new bill that would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.
About 25 campaigners protested outside the Scottish parliament on Tuesday as a committee of MSPs heard evidence on the end of life assistance (Scotland) bill.
The bill, proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, would allow those “whose life has become intolerable”, and who met a series of conditions, to “legally access assistance to end their life”.
But Pam Duncan, a board member of Inclusion Scotland – a consortium of disabled people’s organisations and disabled people – who gave evidence opposing the bill this week, said she believed her points were received “really, really well” by the committee.
Duncan said she was now “more optimistic” than before, and that the committee members seemed “more receptive” to the arguments of disabled people opposed to the bill, while most people now appeared to believe the bill was “not going to go anywhere”.
She told the committee that the bill suggests that the lives of disabled people are less valuable than those of non-disabled people.
The “choice” MacDonald wants to give disabled people to end their lives was a “biased” one, she said, because disability inequality was so “entrenched” in society.
Duncan said she told the committee that the climate of spending cuts meant disabled people were becoming even more disempowered and disadvantaged, with even fewer choices and opportunities.
With the services that support independent living and “make life tolerable” being cut, assisted dying could become an “attractive, quick and easy option”, she said.
Duncan added: “People are more likely to consider themselves a burden than they were before. The crux is that we want life to be a better choice than death.
“We are arguing for a society that promotes the rights of disabled people first and only then can we say the choice at the end of life is an equal one.”
30 September 2010