Disabled people need improved support

As the debate intensifies in Scotland David Reilly reflects on what is at stake. 

by disability rights campaigner, David Reilly

Article first published in The Scotsman

The late Margo McDonald, in her final attempt to pass the bill through the Scottish Parliament, insisted her proposed Assisted Dying legislation had nothing to do with disabled people. Yet, as MSPs begin a debate to pass a similar piece of legislation, carried this time by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, disabled people continue to voice their vehement opposition to any sort of Assisted Dying legislation in Scotland.

Disabled groups, such as the Not Dead Yet campaign, have opposed the introduction of any sort of legislation that enables people to end their own lives and, sometimes struggling to have their voices heard, have articulated many arguments against the introduction of this kind of law.

The bill cites anybody with a potential "life-shortening condition" and, according to disabled people, this phrase is left wide open to interpretation and could include thousands of people. Disabled people have, over the last five years, been under attack like never before as local support services have been withdrawn as a result of the government's austerity measures.

Society already undervalues the lives of disabled people and this kind of law would do nothing but compound society's views that disabled lives are not worth living. Facing ongoing discrimination, society's views of disabled people are borne of higher rates of hate crime, lower employment rates and higher incidences of poverty among the disabled community. Vital monies need to be spent on tackling these issues and supporting disabled people to lead independent and fulfilled lives, rather than introducing legislation assisting them to die.

Disabled people assert that rather than assisting people to end their life, we should be supporting people to live with the assistance that they need. If disabled people had better access to the support they require, they would not feel a burden to others and could be supported to live fulfilled and productive lives. The Scottish Government, in recent years, has spent many millions on an anti-suicide campaign in an attempt to cut suicide rates in mental health.

At the same time to be introducing legislation to assist disabled people to end their lives again, disabled groups argue, is a reflection of society's negative view of disability.

• David Reilly is a disability rights campaigner.