Assisted dying is a debate which needs to be had - Scotsman leader

There are few more emotive issues likely to be debated in the new Holyrood session.
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who died in 2014, introduced two previous billsIndependent MSP Margo MacDonald, who died in 2014, introduced two previous bills
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who died in 2014, introduced two previous bills

Today, a third attempt is being made to pass legislation on assisted dying in Scotland

Liberal Democrat MP Liam McArthur is behind the latest attempt with a Members Bill which, if passed, would allow assisted dying for adults who are both terminally ill and mentally competent.

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It is an incredibly sensitive and polarising debate, but one which demands parliamentary time again.

Almost nine out 10 Scots (87 per cent) are said to support the introduction of such legislation, while a cross party group of a dozen MSPs have already signalled their support.

The group, which includes former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw, as well as Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, argue Scotland needs to change its laws so that those who are terminally ill can “be assured of dignified death”.

There will, however, continue to be valid and strong opposition to the move, as well as real fears over the safeguards, ethical concerns, and impact on medical professionals.

Michael Veitch, the parliamentary officer at the charity Care For Scotland, is one of those against the Bill, claiming it would devalue the lives of disabled people and the vulnerable. “There can be no adequate safeguards,” he insists.

Campaigners strongly disagree arguing this is “not about those who want to die”, it is “about giving those who have a terminal illness, who have been given a terminal diagnosis the opportunity, the choice for a more compassionate and dignified death.”

These are just the opening exchanges in a complex debate which is set to play out in the coming months.

Holyrood previously rejected previous bids to introduce assisted suicide in 2010 and 2015, both Bills being brought forward by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, with Mr Harvie taking forward the second Bill following her death from Parkinson’s disease in 2014. Whether the mood has changed sufficiently to enable a third attempt to be successful remains to be seen, but it is a debate which needs to be had.