Friends at the End Responds to New “Our Duty of Care” Letter to Health Secretary

Our Duty of Care, a group of healthcare professionals who are part of the wider “Care Not Killing” alliance – a long established network of mostly anti-choice and religious organisations initiated to oppose assisted dying, has this week published an open letter addressed to the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf MSP, re-iterating their opposition to the introduction of assisted dying legislation in Scotland. Their opposition stems from the idea that everyone has the right to life under Article 1 of The Human Rights Act 1998. What they fail to mention in their letter however, is our fundamental right to die at a time we choose. This a most basic human right.  

Many medical organisations hold a neutral position on assisted dying; such as the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Nursing, Royal Society of Psychiatrists, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and others. The British Medical Association’s first ever survey of its members’ views on assisted dying in 2020 found that doctors are in support of a change in the law.  

The authors of this letter argue that enhancing patient choice, as the Assisted Dying Bill would seek to do, would in fact diminish the choices of the most vulnerable by detrimentally affecting palliative care. FATE fundamentally disagrees. The Bill, which is being brought to the Scottish Parliament by Liam McArthur MSP, will have strong safeguards in place; it will only apply to terminally ill, mentally competent adults. With the detail of the proposed Bill not yet drafted, it is difficult to understand how opposition organisations such as Our Duty of Care can defend their position.

The next phase of this proposed Bill is a comprehensive consultation, which will seek views from all corners of society. FATE will be engaging fully with the medical profession and others on any concerns that they may have regarding the proposed Bill and we hope that common sense will ultimately prevail. The Bill seeks to work alongside excellent palliative care and to give dying people what they need to in order to experience a good death – high quality palliative care and more choice should they reach the limits of that care. Over 400 million people worldwide now have access to assisted dying, it is time for Scots to have this choice.