Assisted dying: third bill to be introduced at Holyrood in push for legalisation
An assisted dying bill will be brought to Holyrood in a third attempt to have assisted suicide legalised in Scotland.
The proposals are being put forward as a Members Bill by Liberal Democrat MP Liam McArthur and, if passed, would legalise assisted dying for adults who are both terminally ill and mentally competent.
Almost nine out 10 Scots (87%) are said to support the introduction of such legislation, Mr McArthur said, though a previous bid to change the law at Holyrood was voted down by 82 votes to 36 in 2015.
A cross party group of a dozen MSPs have already signalled their support for Mr McArthur’s bid to “introduce safe and compassionate assisted dying laws in Scotland”.
The group includes former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw along with Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, who all argue that the law should be changed to allow those who are terminally ill a “dignified death”.
Writing in an open letter, the MSPs said:
“The current law does not work and should be replaced with a safe and compassionate new law that gives dying people the rights they need to have a good death at a time that is right for them.
“We know there is a problem and it is incumbent upon us to provide a solution.”
McArthur’s proposed Assisted Dying Scotland Bill, which is being supported by Dignity In Dying Scotland, Friends At The End and the Humanist Society Scotland, is being lodged at Holyrood on Monday (June 21)
The bill seeks to legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, with a consultation planned for the autumn.
McArthur said: “I have long believed that dying Scots should be able to access safe and compassionate assisted dying if they choose, rather than endure a prolonged and painful death.
“The current blanket ban on such assistance is unjust and causes needless suffering for so many dying people and their families across Scotland.
“If you have reached the limits of palliative care and face a bad death, none of the current options available to you in Scotland represents an acceptable alternative to a peaceful, dignified death at home.”
Previous bills on assisted suicide were rejected by Holyrood in 2010 and 2015.
Some, like Michael Veitch, the parliamentary officer at the charity Care For Scotland, are against the Bill on the grounds that it would devalue the lives of vulnerable and disabled people.
“This law will not just affect the small number of individuals who might choose to access assisted suicide,” he said.
“It will affect every person living with a terminal illness, fundamentally alter the doctor-patient relationship, devalue disabled people’s lives, and undermine wide efforts to prevent suicide.
“There can be no adequate safeguards.”