LEICESTER, United Kingdom – In a pastoral letter addressed to all Scottish Catholics, the bishops of Scotland have called for people to urge the country’s parliament to reject proposed legislation legalizing assisted suicide.

The Scottish Parliament saw the “Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill” introduced on March 27 by parliamentary member Liam McArthur.

If passed, the bill would make Scotland the first country in the UK to permit assisted dying to its residents.

“Assisted suicide, which allows us to kill our brothers and sisters, takes us down a dangerous spiral that always puts at risk the most vulnerable members of our society, including the elderly, the disabled, and those who struggle with mental health. All those in fact who cannot stand up for themselves,” the bishops say in their statement.

The Catholic leaders said it “is little wonder” the Glasgow Disability Alliance has said the assisted suicide proposal sends a message to disabled people that they are a burden and puts pressure on them to make a choice to die.

“When our society is already marked by so many inequalities, we do not need assisted suicide to put intolerable pressure on our most disadvantaged who do not have a voice in this debate. Implicit in assisted suicide is the suggestion that an individual, in certain circumstances, can lose their value and worth,” the bishops write.

“When vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled, express concerns about being a burden, the appropriate response is not to suggest that they have a duty to die; rather, it is to commit to meeting their needs and providing the care and compassion they need to help them live,” they say.

The Scottish bishops note that in Oregon – where assisted suicide is legalized – consistently around half of those who choose assisted suicide do so because they feel that they are a burden on their families or on their communities and healthcare system.

“Countries where assisted suicide or euthanasia has been legalized have seen safeguards eroded, and many have expanded eligibility criteria to now include people with arthritis, anorexia, autism and dementia. Even little children are being euthanized in these countries that are not so different from our own. The experience of these countries shows that assisted suicide is almost immediately uncontrollable,” they write.

The Church leaders also point to the fact that “assisted suicide” makes all suicide more acceptable.

“At a time when suicide is on the rise in Scotland and we are doing our best to reduce it, what message are we sending to those who are vulnerable when we say that suicide is okay provided it is overseen by a doctor? Laws like this normalize suicide and send a message that some people are beyond hope,” the bishops add.

In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics Forum, Professor David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, has found that in polling commissioned by the pro-assisted suicide lobby group Dignity in Dying, strong support for “assisted dying” in Scotland decreased from 55 percent in 2019, to 45 percent in 2023, and 40 percent in 2024.

Jones said in his article that the higher support for assisted suicide found in YouGov is because people are often unsure of the meaning of the words used in those surveys.

“There is evidence that many people are confused about what is included in ‘assisted dying.’ A survey conducted in 2021 found that most people thought that this meant either ‘giving people who are dying the right to stop life-prolonging treatment’ (42 percent) or ‘providing hospice-type care to people who are dying’ (10 percent).”

The letter from the Catholic bishops will be read out in all of Scotland’s 460 Catholic parishes, on April 27-28.

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