LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Efforts to legalize “assisted dying” in Scotland send the message that lives with suffering “can be considered no longer worth living,” according to a leading archbishop.

Liam McArthur, a Liberal Democrat Member of the Scottish Parliament, is pushing the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) bill in the Scottish Parliament. Critics say the bill risks undermining the provision of palliative care for the dying and undermining efforts to prevent suicide.

In a letter to the faithful on Sunday, Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh said the term “assisted dying” was misleading.

“This is really a form of euthanasia that would allow a doctor or medical professional to help someone commit suicide. If this law is passed, it will further erode how our society values human life, which has already been grievously undermined by legal abortion,” he wrote.

“Those who advocate euthanasia often portray it as a purely personal choice which should be a private matter between individuals and their doctors. Yet the truth is that our decisions and actions are never wholly private. Everything we do affects everyone else for good or ill,” the archbishop continued.

“Our attitudes to life at its very beginnings and at its very end will inevitably shape how we approach life at every stage in between, and this in turn will affect what sort of society we build together,” Cushley said.

During the public consultation that was held on the bill, over 14,000 people responded, the highest ever number for a private members’ bill in the Scottish parliament, with the vast majority supporting the measure.

However, Cushley said the experiences of other countries that legalized euthanasia shows the consequences of legalizing assisted suicide are “likely to be serious and wide-reaching.”

Euthanasia, where doctors use drugs to kill patients, is legal in seven countries — Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain — plus several states in Australia.

RELATED: Canada’s assisted suicide law undercuts palliative care, experts say

Other jurisdictions, including several U.S. states, permit assisted suicide — in which patients take the prescribed lethal drug themselves.

“In Canada euthanasia was legalized in 2016 with strict limits, applying only to adults who are terminally ill and in exceptional physical pain. Yet within just five years it has been extended to include those with chronic illnesses or disabilities. In Belgium and the Netherlands, the scope of legal euthanasia has been further widened to include people suffering from mental illness and, most alarmingly, this can even apply to teenagers and children,” the archbishop said.

In May, the Associated Press reported that in Canada there are instances in which people have sought to be killed because they weren’t getting adequate government support to live.

The report included patients being advised to kill themselves by medical staff, who mentioned the high cost of medical care.

RELATED: Experts troubled by Canada’s euthanasia laws

Cushley claimed availability of “assisted dying” in hospitals and care homes “will damage the relationship of trust between medical professionals and their patients, and it will also undermine trust within families.”

“Those who are frail and elderly easily think that they are a burden on others and may feel pressurized into asking for help to end their lives,” he said.

“Legalizing euthanasia would send a message across the whole of society that lives which entail physical and mental suffering, or severe physical disabilities, can be considered no longer worth living. This is not only wrong in principle – for no life is worthless – it could also have a terrible and tragic effect on vulnerable individuals at their weakest moments,” the archbishop wrote.

Although the author of the bill says it will have “strong safeguards,” advocates say such measures always fray over time.

The advocacy group Care Not Killing says that based on the experience of other jurisdictions, the long-term effects of legalizing assisted suicide in Scotland will “inevitably” mean: Pressure will increase on those people who are vulnerable, disabled or elderly to end their lives prematurely; the number of deaths will increase over time; the law will be extended to other conditions; economic pressures will come to bear on decision making; and ultimately, even terminally ill and possibly disabled children – who are unable to give informed consent – are likely to be eligible to be helped to die.

In his letter, Cushley acknowledged that it’s true that the prospect of terminal suffering “can provoke deep dread, even leading to despair, and we are by no means uncaring about the distress endured by those who face debilitating diseases.”

“There have been considerable advances in end-of-life palliative care in recent years, but there is a real risk that the introduction of legalized suicide would gradually diminish funding for hospices with their wonderful and dedicated staff. It is also likely to reduce investment in further important research into pain management,” the archbishop said.

RELATED: Catholic Church calls move to legalize assisted suicide in Scotland ‘dangerous’

“The overwhelming evidence is that persistent requests for assisted suicide are extremely rare when people’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs are adequately met,” he continued.

He urged the people of Scotland to sign a petition to oppose the proposed legislation, saying it would further undermine the value Scottish society places on human life, “profoundly affecting how we treat those who are suffering and how we care for those who are dying.”

“Dying is, ironically perhaps, the most significant event of our lives, because it is in dying that we most clearly confront the fact that we are fragile creatures, dependent upon others, and that we are not ultimately in charge of our own destiny,” Cushley said. “This is why we have a special sacrament of anointing by which the Lord offers us his own strength and peace at such times of existential crisis, and it is also why we should surround the dying with our prayers and the best of care.”

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome