Former MP and MSP, Dennis Canavan, who suffered the loss of four children, has spoken out movingly against proposals to legalise assisted dying.

Jan 12, 2022 | Uncategorized

Former MP and MSP, Dennis Canavan, who suffered the loss of four children, has spoken out movingly against proposals to legalise assisted dying.

Daily Record:

A former MSP who spoke of his anguish at losing four children has urged Holyrood to reject proposals to legalise assisted dying.

Dennis Canavan said he believed in the “sanctity of human life” and warned no one has the right to classify some people as “less valuable” than others.

Canavan was a Labour MP who, after falling out with his former party, was elected as an MSP for Falkirk West.

He chaired the Yes Scotland group during the 2014 referendum and is a respected voice in the independence movement.

Canavan has also suffered huge personal tragedy after four of his children died.

Eldest son Mark died in Australia in 2007 aged 41 after a battle with motor neurone disease.

His second son Dennis passed away from a brain tumour in 2006 at the age of 35.

Paul, his third son, died from skin cancer aged 16 in 1989, while daughter Ruth passed away in 2017.

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  • In a letter to the Herald, Canavan said he opposes plans by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur to introduce the right to an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults:

“I have probably had more than my fair share of deaths in my family, having suffered the loss of three of my dear sons and my only beloved daughter.

“However, I must say that, in general, I found the standard of NHS care to be excellent and the standard of palliative care in our local Strathcarron Hospice was first class.

“My children undoubtedly underwent some pain but it was minimised by caring health professionals who did everything possible to make their final days as comfortable as possible.

“As a result, my children died in dignity and I beg to differ from those who assert that the option of assisted suicide is necessary to ensure dignity in death.”

Canavan said of one of his sons: “He spent his last few days on a life support machine but, when it became evident that he was not going to recover, the medical professionals consulted family members and we came to the unanimous decision to switch off the machine.

“It was a difficult, heart-rending decision but I have no doubt that it was justified.

“I would not have the same respect for medical professionals if they were to become involved in actively assisting people to commit suicide.”

He continued: “If we believe that the right to life is the most basic human right then it follows that no-one has the right to choose to take human life except in defence of another human life. Similarly no-one has the right to classify some human lives as less valuable than others.

“I live in the hope that I shall one day be reunited with my lost children. I respect those who do not share my belief but the sanctity of human life should surely be recognised by all human beings, whatever their theological or philosophical beliefs.”

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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