The legalisation of assisted suicide could lead to it being seen as a “cost saving” measure to prop up the United Kingdom’s struggling socialised healthcare system, a top Scottish church leader has warned.
A moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Iain Greenshields has expressed concern that in light of the recent expansion of assisted suicide in Canada, any legalisation could later lead to its widespread use and even potentially being utilised in order to save money for the consistently cash-strapped National Health Service (NHS).
“Participants in a research study reported that medical assistance in dying (the term used in Canada) had consumed resources that would otherwise be used to provide palliative care,” Rev Greenshields said in comments reported by The Telegraph.
“Is this really the way we wish to see precious caring resources directed? Given the pressure on healthcare resources, we are also very concerned that assisted dying could be seen as providing an opportunity for cost saving,”
“We are concerned that, should assisted dying be legalised, the way our society views older people and those with disabilities will, over time, become more utilitarian,” he went on to say.
According to the paper, it is estimated that introducing assisted suicide could result in £84 million in reduced costs for the NHS per year.
While committing suicide is not illegal in Britain, encouraging or assisting the suicide of another is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) noted “reflects the seriousness of the offence.”
Though two previous attempts to legalise the practice in Scotland failed, another bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Liam McArthur is set to be put forward at Holyrood.
The proposed bill comes after Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, expanded its euthanasia laws to include those suffering from mental illness. The country initially legalised assisted suicide in 2016 for terminally ill patients, however, as opponents predicted, this laid the groundwork for the later expansion to non-terminal patients.
While the scheme could potentially be used to save money for the state, in Canada, there have also been reports indicating that economics are playing an increasing role in the decision by individuals to take their own life, namely that poverty is driving them toward suicide.
In October, palliative care physician in Toronto, Dr Naheed Dosani told Global News: “We’re hearing about people who are choosing medical assistance in dying or thinking about it more because they don’t have money to live.”
Reverend Greenshields went on to warn that any change to the legislation surrounding assisted suicide could have broad implications in how people view the sick and vulnerable, whom he predicted would be seen as “less valuable or even burdensome”.
“The acceptance by society of legally assisted dying profoundly changes relationships not only between health professionals and patients, but also within families,” he said.