Assisted Dying: guidance for members on writing to their MSPs.

Writing to your MSP

  • Say you are writing to request that they support the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill that will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament this year (2023). 
  • Be clear on the details of the Bill – this proposal would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication prescribed by a doctor, which the patient would self-administer at a time they chose.
  • Many MSPs won’t respond to correspondence from people who aren’t their constituents so make sure to include your address. You do not need to go into detail on whether you voted for them, or party politics, but you could point out the assisted dying enjoys cross-party support. 
  • Explain why assisted dying matters to you. If you are living with a terminal illness, or someone close to you wanted the choice of an assisted death, share this if you can – personal stories are powerful and persuasive. 
  • Tell them that you are a member of Friends at the End, one of the organisations supporting Liam’s Bill, and link to our website.
  • Include some facts, stories, and examples to support your argument. Some key points are below – choose the ones you feel are most fitting. 
  • Tell them you look forward to receiving their reply and thank them for reading your message. If you would like, you can request a meeting with your MSP to discuss the matter. If a meeting is scheduled, we can support you to prepare for this and give you an idea of the intel we have on your MSP i.e., whether they are undecided or not. 

Key Points 

  • Liam McArthur’s proposal would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication prescribed by a doctor, which the patient would self-administer at a time and place of their own choosing.
  • Above all, subject to strict primary safeguards and as assessed by at least two doctors, it will give dying adults peace of mind that the choice of assisted dying is available if their suffering becomes too great for them. 
  • Assisted dying does not result in more people dying but in fewer people suffering. The law would result in fewer dying adults – and their families – facing unnecessary suffering at the end of their lives, instead giving them choice and control.
  • Support for assisted dying is higher than ever before – 84% of the British public agree it’s time to change the law (Populus poll, 2019)
  • At present, people are finding ways to have an assisted death outwith the watchful eyes of the law and protections that brings – the current law deals with cases after the fact when the person is already dead. There are no preliminary protective safeguards. In contrast, an assisted dying law would explore all other health and social care support prior to the death.  It would also make sure that the choice of assisted dying was informed and voluntary, with checks for undue influence. Recent Scotland-specific research found that many ‘under the radar’ cases are happening across Scotland without the checks and balances that permissive laws bring. 
  • Palliative Care – While more investment and research into palliative care is to be encouraged, no amount of increased care can improve the quality of life for some people. This was illustrated in Scotland by the case of Richard Selley, who was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and died at Dignitas in September 2019. Mr Selley testified to the excellent palliative care that he received but that there was nothing more that could be done for him: “The palliative care I have received at the Cornhill hospice in Perth over the past four years has been outstanding but there is a limit to what they can now do for me. Assisted dying in terminal cases like mine would never replace palliative care; it would complement it by offering a choice for those who feel they have suffered for long enough.” 
  • . The Medical Advisory Group supporting Liam’s Bill recognised in their report that in several jurisdictions where assisted dying is now legal, there has been a consistent trend showing increased investment in palliative care. The group, which included palliative care experts, hospice CEOs and mental health experts, concluded that they unanimously support Liam’s proposal. 
  • The BMA and Royal College of Physicians recently dropped their opposition to assisted dying in favour of a neutral position, after surveying their members. They will now join the Royal College of Nursing, and many medical associations around the world which have taken a balanced and compassionate stance on this issue.
  • There is inherent injustice in a system that turns a blind eye to people travelling abroad to access assisted dying laws. Most people cannot afford the huge financial (average £10,000) and emotional costs to travel abroad and instead are taking their own lives in the UK out of desperation – often in very distressing circumstances. For more on this, see The Inescapable Truth.
  • The current law prohibits dying people discussing their end-of-life wishes with their doctors, meaning professionals have little awareness if someone is going to end their life at home or abroad, or indeed if they are vulnerable. This damages the doctor-patient relationship and prevents people getting the help that they could otherwise benefit from. 
  • Over 200 million people around the world have access to assisted dying legislation. Assisted Dying is now legal in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, New Zealand, 11 US States, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and many other countries across the world. 
  • In over 20 years of the law being passed in Oregon, there is no evidence of the law widening. Annually, fewer than 0.5% of people in Oregon have an assisted death. 
  • Emotional Insurance – people take great comfort knowing the option of assisted dying is there, even if they don’t use it. Having choice, control and the certainty of a dignified death is important to the terminally ill who have already been robbed of so much by their illness. 
  • Importantly, the record breaking response to Liam McArthur’s proposal showed that thousands of Scots are having bad deaths, and that the current choices at the end of life are not acceptable. Hundreds of healthcare practitioners across Scotland are supportive but are afraid to speak out whilst it remains illegal and the overwhelming majority – 78% of the public – want the choice of an assisted death.