The national convener of the SNP for disabled members has supported opponents of a new proposed euthanasia law and vowed to combat any support from government colleagues “with every fiber of my being”.
Jamie Szymkowiak’s claim follows criticism from Holyrood’s first permanent wheelchair user, Pam Duncan-Glancy, along with opposition campaign groups.
The comments are a renewed push for a legislative change in Scotland that has officially reached the Scottish Parliament, led by Orkney Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur with bipartisan supporters.
Mr Szymkowiak reacted after the plan was published, claiming: “Most of the afternoon was spent planning. I will fight Holyrood’s assisted suicide law with every fiber of my being. The voices of disabled people in Scotland are heard. “
Earlier, Labor MSP Duncan-Glancy warned: “I am very concerned about this. Disabled people do not yet enjoy our right to an equal life. I would much rather have a legal right to life long before we have a right to die. Until all things are the same, it is dangerous for disabled people. “
Mr McArthur said he believed there was enough support to get law through the third attempt in just over a decade.
“Too many Scots are forced to endure a protracted, painful and undignified death, often despite the very best palliative care, because euthanasia is generally prohibited,” he said.
Earlier proposals were rejected in free votes in 2010 and 2015 and not enforced according to party lines.
© Shutterstock The newly elected Pam Duncan-Glancy of Scottish Labor.
When the latest bill was tabled on June 21st, Mr Szymkowiak asked what considerations to take into account for people from the rest of the UK moving to Scotland for one year of palliative care to qualify for the bill.
Mr Szymkowiak, SNP Branch Manager in Dunoon, Argyll, expressed concern about the progress made in Canada. He claimed two legislative changes in six years had increased eligibility, “undermining safety precautions”.
He wrote: “Holyrood’s focus should be on integrating the UN Disability Rights Convention into Scottish law, establishing the National Care Service, halving the employment gap for the disabled, building accessible transportation and housing.
“Once disabled people have real equality – with adequate independent life support – then we may have the ‘choice’ many able-bodied people are falsely currently providing through the introduction of an assisted suicide bill during a global pandemic.”
What does the new bill propose?
The draft law requires someone to have lived in Scotland for at least a year before being eligible for euthanasia. The aim is to avoid the controversial issue of euthanasia, where patients from illegal countries travel to other destinations such as Switzerland, where the laws are more liberal.
The first attempt to change the law was led by Margo MacDonald, a veteran MSP with Parkinson’s who died in 2014. A second attempt by Patrick Harvie, co-founder of the Greens, was rejected in 2015.
Liam McArthur MSP.
A new group of 12 MSPs, including former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw and Greens co-chairs Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, argued that Scotland needed to change its laws.
They said, “The current law is not working and should be replaced by a safe and compassionate new law that gives dying people the rights they need to have a good death at a time that is right for them.”
The issue was raised during the Scottish Parliament election campaign. It was published by British bake-off judge Prue Leith, whose brother David died of cancer. She said the experience was “egregious” and called on the MSPs to change the law at the next parliamentary session.
“Give people a say”
The Dignity in Dying campaign now has 53,000 supporters, said group spokeswoman Ally Thomson.
“It’s a safe and compassionate proposition that makes euthanasia available only to terminally ill, mentally competent adults,” she said.
“The safeguards at the heart of the bill create security and transparency where there is currently none.
“The bill coexists with calls to promote disability equality and the right to independent living. It shares a vision of a country where people have choice, control and autonomy in making decisions that affect their life and death.
“We know that 88% of disabled people support a change in the law that will give dying people who end their lives suffering and pain the choice of saying when they have had enough. As a country, Scotland can promote the rights of its disabled citizens and ensure that its dying people do not suffer unnecessarily – it is not an either / or situation. “
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