MSPs urged to improve end of life care rather than right to die

Rev Sally Foster Fulton at today’s Scottish Parliament hearing. Courtesy of BBC Democracy Live.

We must do more to improve palliative care for those approaching the end of their life, and make it as good as it possibly can be before considering legalising a right to die. That was the message the Convener of the Church and Society Council delivered to the MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's Health committee as they heard submissions on the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood this morning.

Rev Sally Foster Fulton told MSPs of the Church's opposition to the Bill, and her concerns about its potential impact on the "vulnerable, marginalised and afraid coming to the end of their life." She said "We cannot safeguard the most vulnerable from this legislation. What about those who are not well supported and desperately want to live out their lives with dignity. Who will speak for them and protect them? Once the genie is out of the bottle you can't get it back in."

The Convener shared her fears that vulnerable people are being told their lives are less worthwhile than other people, and that erodes everyone. She said the Committee was approaching the problem from the wrong perspective. "Palliative care in this country is patchy. If we are looking at Assisted Suicide as Plan B, we should be looking at improving palliative care as Plan A first and exhaust all options to make it as good as it can be before we do anything else."Throughout the morning session, the MSPs also heard from medical professionals and those involved in providing end of life care. Mrs Foster Fulton told the Health committee the sanctity of life was complex and must be respected as "fleeting, fragile and extraordinary". She said the MSPs had heard moving stories from those promoting the Bill, but she argued compelling stories do not make good legislation.

The Convener was giving evidence on behalf of the Church along with representatives from other faith groups, including Rev Dr Harriet Harris from the Scottish Episcopal Church, Rev Dr Donald MacDonald from the Free Church of Scotland, Ephraim Borowski from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Dr Salah Beltagui from the Muslim Council of Scotland and John Deighan from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland.

You can read an essay by Mrs Foster Fulton printed in today's Scottish Daily Mail.

Find out more about the Church of Scotland's position on end of life issues.

You can read a full report on thehearing on the BBC Democracy Live site. Scroll down to the start of the day's proceedings