Four-fifths of Scots back state assisted suicide

Almost four-fifths of Scots think it is important for controversial proposals on assisted suicide to become law, a poll has suggested.

Campaigners for and against the bill will appear before Holyroods health committee today. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Campaigners for and against the bill will appear before Holyroods health committee today. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The research, for My Life, My Death, My Choice, an umbrella organisation set up in support of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, found 78 per cent of those questioned said it was either of “high importance” or “middling importance” that the proposed legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Campaigners for and against the bill will appear before Holyrood’s health committee today.

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Dr Bob Scott, from the My Life group, who will be among those giving evidence, said that over the past 12 months, there had been “consistently high support” among Scots for the change.

“This has been clearly demonstrated in the poll showing 69 per cent support, the 74 per cent of submissions to the health and sport committee asking the legislation to be passed and the nearly 4,000 people who have signed a petition to MSPs in favour of the bill,” he said.

“Last year, we were told by opponents of the bill that the issue wasn’t of real importance to the public. With 78 per cent saying it is important the bill be passed, that idea is clearly debunked.”

The bill was originally proposed by the late MSP Margo MacDonald and similar suggestions for a change in the law were rejected by the Scottish Parliament five years ago.

Under the proposed legislation, only those who are terminally ill or suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions which make life intolerable will be able to seek assisted suicide.

Jennifer Buchan, a celebrant with the Humanist Society Scotland, will also tell MSPs the change should be introduced.

The society said in a submission to MSPs that suicide was a “human right”, adding: “The bill guarantees that right for those who qualify under its terms but who, on account of illness and suffering, may require assistance.

“This is the essential ethical argument for the bill.”

But religious groups have opposed the move and Dr Gordon Macdonald, of Care Scotland, has warned that assisted suicide goes against Scotland’s “heritage as a nation”.

Dr Macdonald said: “At the heart of Scottish society for generations has been a concern for the welfare of the vulnerable and the needy.

“MSPs will want to think incredibly hard about allowing this rich and valued heritage to be eroded on their watch and we believe that is precisely what this proposed legislation will do.

“Not only does the bill promote an overly individualistic ideology, it is process-heavy but safeguards-light.”

He added: “We are opposed to assisted suicide because it is morally wrong and is a severe danger to society. Within a short space of time, should this bill be introduced, it is not hard to see it being extended to other categories of people.”