By Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics discusses the Assisted Suicide Bill
Is it right to keep a human person alive, who is suffering, when we would not even treat a dog in such a way?
This is a question that will be discussed when the Assisted Suicide Bill is considered in the Scottish Parliament before the end of May.
One of the main problems, however, with the ‘euthanasia for dogs’ example is the mistaken belief that people are actually dying in excruciating physical suffering in Scotland.
But in reality, physical suffering can be adequately alleviated in all but the rarest of cases when treated by healthcare professionals with the relevant expertise.
The second problem with the ‘euthanasia for dogs’ example is that human beings are not just animals.
Of course, an argument can be made that human individuals should be able to ask for their lives, or the lives of their sick relatives, to be ended out of compassion in a similar way to what loving dog owners do in veterinary clinics when their pet has lost any hope of recovery.
But human beings have always been considered as having a special worth and value in all societies of the world – a value and worth which is different to that of all other animals.
Contrary to the rest of the animal kingdom, human beings also consider each person in a civilised society as having an inherent worth and value which cannot be diminished or lost.
Civilised human society is not a jungle where the strongest individuals prevail at the expense of the weakest in a survival competition of the fittest.
Instead, it is a society where many of our taxes and other charitable donations are used to help the lives of everyone in a spirit of compassion and solidarity.
No matter how young or old, able or disabled, sick or healthy, close to or far from death a person is, he or she is still considered to be equal in worth and dignity by Scottish society including by the Scottish Parliament.
This is the reason why free and democratic elections exist in Scotland and medical treatment on the NHS is available to all.
Without this equality between all human beings, the whole of civilised society would collapse.