Assisted dying bill set to be lodged at parliament

A new bill to legalise assisted dying is to be put before the Scottish Parliament.

Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur is putting forward proposals for a Members Bill
Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur is putting forward proposals for a Members Bill

The bill, put forward by Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur, will give Scots – who have lived north of the border for at least 12 months - access to life-ending medication if two doctors are satisfied that they meet safeguards, including being mentally competent.

The bill will be lodged at Holyrood on Monday, with a consultation due to take place in the autumn, according to a report published by the BBC.

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Mr 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.

Liam McArthur has put forward the new assisted dying bill.

"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."

He added: "The proposal I am presenting is one that co-exists with more and better palliative care and applies only to terminally ill, mentally competent adults. It has strong safeguards that put transparency, protection and compassion at its core and is modelled on legislation that has passed rigorous testing in other countries around the world.

"It is a proposal that chimes with powers our Parliament has to deliver change that helps build a fairer and more progressive society. Emerging from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to take the actions required to make sure that the end of our lives is more compassionate, fairer and more reflective of a dying person’s choice. We have the ability to create a new standard for how we die.”

The Scottish Parliament has already rejected two attempts to introduce assisted dying initiated by the late Margo MacDonald. It was voted down by 82-16 in 2010.

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Although another decisive defeat followed in 2015, the 82-36 vote marked a doubling in support among MSPs.

An open letter of support for the bill was signed by 12 MSPs: Karen Adam, Ariane Burgess, Jackson Carlaw, Katy Clark, Rachael Hamilton, Patrick Harvie, Liam Kerr, Gillian Mackay, Rona Mackay, Fulton MacGregor, Lorna Slater and Paul Sweeney.

It states: "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."

Mr McArthur said the bill contained a number of safeguards, including people having to have a terminal illness and a certificate of mental competency and to be an adult who lives in Scotland only.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: "Scotland's new Assisted Dying Bill is a watershed moment, not only for dying Scots but for the whole of the UK."

Internationally, a number of countries, including areas of Australia and New Zealand, have legalised assisted dying.

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