Online content fuelling 'culture of death', Baroness says
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff has called out online content for promoting a “culture of death”.
Speaking in Lord Speaker’s Corner podcast, she said the internet has fuelled an ideation of suicide, where death has become a “commodity”.
She argued algorithms can “suck people down a route of despair”, and how parents are often unaware their children have been “entrapped” by this dangerous content.
Finlay, who is also a professor in palliative care, was one of the driving forces behind the decision to outlaw content promoting self-harm in the Online Safety Act, which gained Royal Assent last month.
The peer also voiced her concerns about proposed Assisting Dying Bills across the UK, stating that the legislation could “gradually get eroded”, leading to “almost death in demand”.
Her arguments follow recent upheaval regarding Canada's plan to expand the eligibility criteria for medically assisted dying to those suffering from mental illness.
“It becomes too easy for people to view death as a solution. It's been estimated that it's about 60 hours of clinical time to really process a request properly. Well, I would prefer that you spend 60 hours of clinical time improving people's quality of life… We need to be saying that people's lives are important. We need to help them live as well as possible for as long as possible,” she added.
“It would be wonderful if every doctor, every nurse, was well-motivated. But goodness me, we have seen disasters in this country of people abusing their position, to say the least, and almost clocking into a culture of death, which is dangerous."
This is not the first time she has spoken out against the bill. In 2022, in an interview with The House magazine, she tagged the legislation as a “cheap solution for human suffering” that diverted resources away from improving palliative care and created “a lacuna in suicide prevention strategies.”
However, despite her concerns, the proposed legislation is supported by a majority north of the border. Last September, a YouGov poll showed that 80 per cent of Scottish voters supported the option to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives.
The bill proposal was introduced in 2021 by Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur.
It will be the third attempt to legalise assisted dying in Scotland, the first two having been brought by the late Margo MacDonald.