Nicola Sturgeon yet to come to 'final view' on assisted dying legislation

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is yet to come to a “final view” on whether she will support controversial plans to legalise assisted dying in Scotland.

The First Minister admitted she found the issue “very difficult” and had sympathy with some of the concerns raised by critics. Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur is expected to introduce a members' Bill on assisted dying later this year.

This would allow mentally competent adults who are terminally ill to end their lives. Two doctors would need to confirm a person was terminally ill and mentally competent, and there is a suggested reflection period of 14 days. It is the third attempt to legalise assisted dying in Scotland.

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Writing in The Scotsman on Monday, the moderator of the Church of Scotland's General Assembly said he was "very concerned" about the issue.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andy Buchanan - Pool/Getty Images

The Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields said the Kirk’s opposition was based on a point of faith, and he was worried assisted dying would lead to society taking a more “utilitarian” approach to older people and those with disabilities.

He said: "Given the pressure on healthcare resources, we are also very concerned that assisted dying could be seen as providing an opportunity for cost-saving.”

Ms Sturgeon was asked about the issue during a Scottish Government press conference at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh.

She said: "My views are not yet finalised on the legislation. I think, like many people, I suppose I find it a very difficult issue and find it one in which my views have changed.”

The First Minister said: “I don’t believe it would ever be something that would be seen as a cost-saving.”

However, she said she had “a lot of sympathy” with some of the concerns raised by critics.

Ms Sturgeon continued: “I have always been worried about, and not previously been adequately assured in my own mind, of the ability to have sufficient safeguards that – even if only in a very small number of cases – would guard against potential abuse of a system like that. So that’s always been my difficulty.”

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She said testimony by those who had terminal illnesses, as well as their close family members, had influenced her views on the issue.

The First Minister said: “I will consider very, very carefully all of these issues before I come to a final view, which I haven’t yet arrived at.”

Responding to Dr Greenshields’ comments, Mr McArthur previously said: "My only motivation in bringing forward proposals for a new assisted dying law is to give dying people who are suffering unbearably the peace of mind that they do not need to suffer against their will.

"In bringing forward legislative proposals, MSPs are required to produce robust financial information that detail the costs of setting up a new system, but also provide evidence of potential savings. However, this is not the reason why I am bringing forward this legislation. This Bill is solely about ensuring dignity and choice for those at the end.

"The evidence shows that where the right to an assisted death exists, palliative care spending goes up, not down. This is because there is a greater focus on end-of-life care and treatment.

"My Bill proposals include that two doctors would outline alternative treatment and care options to someone seeking an assisted death. I want to see strong investment in palliative care in Scotland, alongside a change in the law on assisted dying."

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