The Scottish Parliament will consider a new bill to legalise assisted dying, after a campaign spearheaded by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur.
The new bill, to be lodged on Monday, has broad cross-party support and was helped by a grassroots campaign during the Holyrood elections which saw tens of thousands of letters sent to candidates urging them to get behind the new initiative.
This will be the third attempt to legislate for assisted dying in Scotland in the last decade, and Liam McArthur says there is now “overwhelming public support” for the move.
“Too many Scots are forced to endure a protracted, painful and undignified death, often despite the very best of palliative care, due to a blanket ban on assisted dying”
“They are their families deserve greater compassion, dignity and choice.”
Mr McArthur says there is growing international evidence that assisted dying can be made to work safely and effectively, and adds that he’s confident of strong support across party lines in parliament.
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said on Sunday that this is a piece of legislation “whose time may have finally come.”
“Every Scot should have the right to a good death” the Edinburgh MSP added.
Opponents say the right to an assisted death puts too much pressure on terminally ill patients to make end-of-life decisions.
New rights for Scottish residents
Campaigners for the legislation, which would grant the right to an assisted death for adults who are terminally ill and mentally competent, have welcomed the latest developments.
“The time is right, the bill is right, dying people need excellent care and the choice of a safe and compassionate assisted death” says Ally Thomson, Director Scotland of Dignity in Dying.
The provisions of the bill would require someone to have lived in Scotland for at least a year before they have the right to an assisted death, side-stepping the controversial issue of ‘assisted dying tourism’ which has seen patients travel from countries where it is illegal, to other destinations – like Switzerland – where the laws are more liberal.
Scotland hoping to follow New Zealand legislation
Liam McArthur’s bill marks the third attempt by parliamentarians to successfully pass assisted dying legislation in Scotland.
The first attempt was led by Margo MacDonald, a veteran MSP with Parkinson’s disease who died in 2014. A second attempt, taken on by Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, was rejected in 2015.
A new End of Life Act was recently introduced in New Zealand, a nation that MSPs and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have often held up as an example.
The Scottish Green Party is the only one with a specific manifesto pledge to legislate for assisted dying; the SNP wants a “citizens’ assembly” to look at the difficult issue; while Labour and the Conservatives don’t have any specific proposals in their manifestos.
However, a group of 12 MSPs recently published an open letter outlining their cross-party support for a new bill.