Scotland has 129 MSPs and just 126 specialist palliative care doctors.

Dr Gillian Wright


Scotland has 129 MSPs and just 126 specialist palliative care doctors.

That’s an alarming statistic for MSP Liam McArthur to mull over as he prepares to bring a new assisted suicide Bill before Holyrood.

He believes there is enough support at Holyrood to pass his legislation.

But he does not recognise that the current law prohibiting medical killing safeguards everyone, that’s the message which will be delivered at Holyrood this week (THU JAN 18).

MSPs will hear from Dr Gillian Wright, spokesperson for Our Duty Of Care (ODOC), members of the medical community opposed to assisted suicide.

Palliative care doctors across Scotland look after terminally ill patients with great compassion and responded overwhelmingly in a survey in 2022 that they are opposed to assisted suicide, will not take part and many will leave their job if it is introduced.

Dr Wright, who previously worked in palliative care will tell MSPs there are more of them than palliative care specialists and she will add:

“Instead of allowing people to kill themselves we desperately need to invest our resources, creativity, ideas and funding not in helping people die but in helping them live until they die.

“Nobody wants to see anyone suffer at the end.

“We are all distressed by accounts of those in pain or who have other uncontrolled symptoms as they confront death.

“So the nation faces the profound question of how to respond.

“Do we allow patients to end their lives with medical help because we fail to provide the end of life care they need?

“Scottish palliative care teams work with GPs and district nurses looking after the terminally ill. Macmillan and specialist nurses are skilled in helping with difficult pain, emotional and psychological support.

“But there are huge gaps in service provision and access to high quality 24/7 palliative care is sadly inadequate for most.

“Palliative care doctors are needed daily, in and out of hours to meet the demanding needs of patients in their care and their families.”

Dr Wright will add:

“We need a sea change in how our dying are looked after instead of assisted suicide.

“We need a major financial commitment to fund Macmillian nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and the teams who support them – the receptionists, gardeners, even art therapists.

“Scotland has two palliative care psychologists – just two! So for those who have great anxiety or distress towards the end of life who might consider suicide,  there needs more investment in psychological support.

“We need a different model of general practice to allow GPs to spend more time with patients in the final year of their lives.

“We need district nurses to have more time, not just a few inadequate and snatched minutes with those who are frail and elderly.

“There isn’t enough palliative care to go round but instead of responding by correcting this deficit of care we find MSPs offering the option of letting folk kill themselves.

“Our nation’s palliative care provision depends on good will, voluntary donations and community fundraising.

“Most hospices have a third of their budgets met by the NHS which depends heavily on their services on a daily basis. Hospice  budgets have been reduced by recent Government pay awards to the NHS and calls for help at the end of 2023 were met with silence from Holyrood.”

She will continue:

“As for assisted suicide, it’s not as straightforward as its protagonists would have you believe.

 “Such a law would change the focus of palliative care for an already stretched workforce.

“What do doctors do if a patient has fits – administer a lethal injection or resuscitate the patient?

“What if the patient doesn’t die?

“As for safeguards, Canada has eroded them within SIX years. They brought in a law for the terminally ill, now extended to those with chronic physical illness and are now planning to extend it to chronic mental illness.

“Where is the line drawn? If someone is suffering and wants to die, why limit the law to those at the end of life? Instead let’s care well for those who are suffering and in distress.

“How will Scotland respond in 2024?

“Let’s say no to helping people to take their own lives. Instead, let’s astonish the world by leading the way in the call for excellent 24/7 palliative care.”