Assisted dying Scotland: New report should give public ‘reassurances’, says Scottish Lib Dem MSP

New report says palliative care cannot be forgotten about in legalising assisted dying

A Westminster report into assisted dying should give the public “reassurances” any change in the law in Scotland will be done right, the MSP leading on proposed new legislation has said.

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said palliative care was not always the right option for every person receiving end-of-life treatment.

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Mr McArthur is expected to bring forward a Bill to the Scottish Parliament to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill but mentally competent adults in Scotland later this year.

Liam McArthur is bringing forward a Bill to legalise assisted dying in ScotlandLiam McArthur is bringing forward a Bill to legalise assisted dying in Scotland
Liam McArthur is bringing forward a Bill to legalise assisted dying in Scotland

Now a new report from Westminster’s health and social care committee is warning the UK government must get “actively involved” in the conversation around assisted dying law, as it looks “increasingly likely” the legislation will change in at least one jurisdiction.

As well as legislation potentially being changed in Scotland, the issue is also being looked at on the Isle of Man and Jersey, which are both British crown dependencies.

The report adds any change in the law must also include “universal coverage of palliative and end-of-life services” and ensure patients’ advanced care plans are “honoured where possible”.

Mr McArthur said legislators in Scotland should be reassured by this report. He said palliative care may even get more investment if there was a change in assisted dying law.

Mr McArthur told the BBC: “The point about palliative care is an important concern that has been raised, that the introduction of the choice of an assisted death could detract away from palliative care. All the international evidence suggests that is not the case, and in many instances there has been investment and improved access to palliative care.”

He said while palliative care was sufficient for the “vast majority of people”, this was not the case for a “significant number”.

The Orkney MSP said: “It is not just pain management – there’s other types of suffering, and adding the choice of an assisted death to the other end-of-life choices is about providing compassion and dignity, and recognising palliative care is not sufficient in every instance.”

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Mr McArthur said the Westminster committee’s report “debunks” concerns about legalising assisted dying being the start of a “slippery slope”.

He said: “The international evidence shows that where the law is introduced, the eligibility criteria doesn’t change, so legislators can draw confidence that the legislation that is passed will introduce those safeguards.”

Mr McArthur said he was “confident” the political mood in Holyrood had now caught up with the public and his Bill would get the support it needed to pass.

This is the third time Holyrood will look at assisted dying legislation. Both the late Margo MacDonald and Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie have attempted to bring forward bills to change the law around assisted dying in the past.

Dame Esther Rantzen has separately made a fresh call for a debate and vote on legalising assisted dying in the wake of the Westminster report.

The 83-year-old, who has stage four cancer, has been campaigning on the issue, including backing the launch of a petition demanding a parliamentary vote, which amassed tens of thousands of signatures over a few weeks.

The Childline founder and broadcaster said: “The current law is a mess."



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