Liam McArthur surrounded by a scrum of journalists in Holyrood as he launches his assisted dying bill for Scotland.

Disinformation campaign against assisted dying begins

April 8, 2024

We pick over some examples of highly inaccurate reporting on Liam McArthur MSP’s assisted dying bill hosted by conservative Christian organisations. They give a taste of what is to come.

With Liam McArthur’s Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill now published, there is a concerted campaign of disinformation underway to alarm the Scottish public as to its scope and intent. On March 29, the religious anti-assisted dying group Care Not Killing published an article on its website by Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Canada. The piece is catchily entitled “Scotland’s deceptive euthanasia bill redefines terminal illness to include people with disabilities.”

Fear-mongering targeted at disabled people

This article contains extensive distortions of fact. Most egregiously, it suggests that the definition of “terminal illness” in the bill has been deliberately worded to bring disabled people within its scope. In fact, the bill has been carefully worded to ensure that disability is not sufficient grounds for requesting an assisted death.

You can read our useful explainer with the researcher on Liam McArthur’s bill, Dr. Amanda Ward. This piece includes a clear analysis of who would and wouldn’t be eligible. Disabled people would, of course, be eligible if they were also terminally ill. Thus the language of the bill contains enough nuance for Schadenberg to present a scare-mongering reading.

Claims of legalised euthanasia

Schadenberg’s piece also states that the definition of how a patient would self-administer a lethal substance is deliberately vague. He claims that this is so that physicians and other medical practitioners could administer the substance themselves. This would in turn mean the bill was in fact permitting “euthanasia.”

Again, this is the opposite of bill’s intention. Our explainer with Dr. Ward makes clear that the aim is for self-administration. This may in some cases require the assistance of a medical practitioner, depending on the physical strength of the patient, and because the process might require some practical explanation. Again, the resultant subtlety of wording allows a distorted analysis to be offered.

We should not be surprised that Care Not Killing is platforming content like this. The anti-assisted dying organisation likes to present itself as secular. However, it has published openly conservative religious content on its site.

Hidden motives

We should not be surprised that Care Not Killing is platforming content like this. The anti-assisted dying organisation likes to present itself as secular. However, it has published openly conservative religious content on its site. A piece from 2009 states that “hospitals have never needed God more.” Another piece, from 2015, presents attempts to change the law on assisted dying as part of the “zeitgeist of our postmodern secular humanist society.” A Guardian article from this year showed that Care Not Killing has been financed by the charitable trust of evangelical, anti-LGBT+ businessman Brian Souter.

Conspiratorial thinking

Schadenberg’s article is one example amongst many. Another recent piece, published by Catholic Arena, suggests that multiple jurisdictions are clandestinely coordinating legislative progress on assisted dying. The author, Dr. Kevin Hay, claims that the Scottish bill’s publication has been deliberately timed to coincide with assisted dying publications in the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, and the Isle of Man.

The argument betrays the paranoid, conspiratorial thinking that prevails within the anti-assisted dying campaign.

Of course, this is simply a coincidence of parliamentary timetabling in independent jurisdictions with no control over each other. (If anything, the concurrent activity reflects a global sea-change in thinking on this subject). But Dr. Hay’s argument betrays the paranoid, conspiratorial thinking that prevails within the anti-assisted dying campaign, and within reactionary religious movements in general.

We will continue to see fear-mongering articles like these appear as Liam McArthur’s bill is scrutinised in the Scottish parliament. As humanists, it is imperative that we put forward the case for reason, choice, and compassion, more now than ever.

Tell your MSP the Time is Now for an Assisted Dying law

Please help us reach every MSP in Scotland to ask them to support Liam McArthur’s Assisted Dying bill in Scotland.

Image: Liam McArthur takes questions from the media on publication of his assisted dying bill in March 2024.

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