Scotland: Assisted suicide could be approved over Zoom

Scotland: Assisted suicide could be approved over Zoom

A new assisted suicide Bill in Scotland could permit people who want to end their lives in accordance with the law to have their request granted over Zoom.

A consultation document on the proposed Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill released last month reveals that those proposing the Bill are considering the prospect of a death being signed off by video-link if the patient has difficulty travelling or otherwise is unable to see two doctors.

The consultation notes: “[assisted suicide] may in practice be harder to obtain for people living in small and remote communities, including island communities – particularly as travelling is likely to be particularly difficult for people with a terminal illness”.

It continues: “The process requires the direct involvement of a number of other people to carry out certain functions, for example the two independent doctor assessments at stage 1. It may be harder for a person living in a small and remote community to identify individuals who are able to attend at the relevant time and place”.

“It may also be more difficult for someone living in such a location to gain access to an alternative doctor if the only local doctor declines to assist on grounds of conscience”.

A footnote in the consultation document adds: “Research from permissive jurisdictions shows that assessments can be undertaken via videolink with the doctor and the patient in exceptional circumstances”.

Chief executive of Care Not Killing, Dr Gordon Macdonald, who highlighted the footnote, said the reference to a video-link consultation “beggars belief”.

“How can a medic make a decision on the state of mind of an individual on a remote internet connection without being in the physical presence of that person to try and make a measured judgement?” he added.

He said many healthcare experts are “vehemently opposed to the Bill and are already expressing their views”.

“Legalising assisted suicide would put immeasurable pressure on vulnerable people including those with disabilities to end their lives prematurely, for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden on others”, he said.

Baroness Meacher, Chair of the pro-assisted suicide group, ‘Dignity in Dying’, has launched a Private Members’ Bill on assisted suicide, which received its First Reading in the House of Lords in May this year and is set to have its Second Reading on 22 October.

If the Bill passes all its stages in the House of Lords, it has a chance of being debated in the House of Commons early next year, and could make assisted suicide legal in England.

The Prime Minister has indicated that he does not support a change in the law.