New research conducted by YouGov shows that 79% of disabled people in Scotland support legalising assisted dying. The research, undertaken during July 2023, also reveals that a slightly higher percentage of disabled people support legalising assisted dying than the figure amongst the general population. Once again, arguments that assisted dying laws are perceived as a threat by disabled people are shown to be a smokescreen.
The survey reported in the Guardian, commissioned by Dignity in Dying, asked 1,084 adults in Scotland the following question. “To what extent, if at all, would you support or oppose assisted dying becoming legal in Scotland?” Of those who stated they were “limited a little” by health or disability issues, 79% supported legalisation. Of those “limited a lot,” support stood at 78%. However, amongst this group the percentage who “strongly support” change jumped from 46% to 56%. Amongst the general population, 77% supported legalisation.
Once again, arguments that assisted dying laws are perceived as a threat by disabled people have been shown to be a smokescreen.
Politicial leaders not in line with public opinion
The overwhelming support for assisted dying amongst Scotland’s disabled community stands in stark contrast to Humza Yousaf’s recent statements against Liam McArthur MSP’s bill. Mr. Yousaf told The Daily Record that his doubts around assisted dying had grown after meeting members of Glasgow Disability Alliance.
A small number of disability activist groups vehemently oppose assisted dying. Some perceive it as part of a campaign to devalue disabled people’s lives and undermine their human rights. In the UK, this is often framed in relation to ongoing cuts to welfare and support for disabled people by UK government. Humanists naturally stand in solidarity with all attempts to realise human rights for disabled people.
Opponents of assisted dying often claim…consensus amongst people with disabilities that [it] should be prohibited. However, this picture of unanimity isn’t borne out by the evidence.Prof. Ben Colburn, University of Glasgow
Evidence shows disabled people back the right of choice
However, there is no evidence from any legislature where assisted dying exists on the model proposed in Scotland that it threatens disabled people. Recent research by Prof. Ben Colburn at the University of Glasgow found that “assisted dying laws should not be opposed on the basis of the views, welfare, respect or healthcare of people with disabilities.” His paper specifies that “assisted dying laws do not harm people with disabilities,” “do not show disrespect for people with disabilities,” and “don’t damage healthcare for people with disabilities.”
As Prof. Colburn notes, “opponents of assisted dying often claim…consensus amongst people with disabilities that [it] should be prohibited.” However, “this picture of unanimity isn’t borne out by the evidence. A recent survey of disability rights organisations in the UK indicated that only 4% explicitly oppose assisted dying laws.”
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