Friends at the End back Assisted Dying (Scotland) Bill

Friends at the End (FATE) are supporting Liam McArthur MSP to lodge a Bill to change the law on assisted dying in Scotland. 

Alongside our partners, Humanist Society Scotland and Dignity in Dying we have garnered an unprecedented level of support within the Scottish Parliament, giving the new Bill the most likely chance of passing than ever before. 

Additionally, public polling from last week has shown that 86% of Scots want the Scottish Parliament to examine the issue and 75% want this done within two years.

The Bill would legalise assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, a change supported by 87% of the Scottish public. In Scotland, a terminal illness is regarded as a progressive disease, which can reasonably be expected to cause an individual’s death. Terminal illness includes a wide range of different diseases and individuals may have a single disease or a number of conditions at any one time.

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Lodging the proposals, Liam McArthur, MSP for Orkney, 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.   

“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 represent an acceptable alternative to a peaceful, dignified death at home.

“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.”

Commenting on the bill launch, Amanda Ward, Chief Executive of Friends at the End, said:

“It has been a long road from Patrick Harvie’s 2015 attempt to change the law on assisted dying to the launch of this bill. In that time too many Scots have faced a painful and undignified death. Our new cohort of MSPs are not willing to accept this and have rightfully grasped the nettle with values of compassion and empathy driving the momentum for change.”  

“Insurmountable Scotland specific research, stakeholder engagement and interaction with those with lived experience means that this new bill is one that balances the wish of many dying people to have the choice of ending their life whilst providing safeguards for the vulnerable, and clarifies the law in this most important area.” 

“We could not be more pleased that the time for change has come and we will continue to work closely with Liam McArthur, our steering group of MSPs, the Cross Party Group and our partners HSS and DID to support this process to change the law”

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland said:

“We are delighted to back Liam’s proposal to bring a compassionate choice to dying people. Humanists, both in Scotland and globally, have long been at the forefront of the campaign for assisted dying laws.

“People at the end of their life need to be listened to and have their choices respected. The current practice of ignoring the demand for assisted dying at home but allowing people well and rich enough to travel to a private clinic abroad is simply immoral and without a shred of compassion.

“Given the overwhelming weight of public opinion is on the side of change, we think it is the right time for the Scottish Parliament to consider this issue. Scotland is able to learn from many countries around the world who have passed safe, dignified and properly regulated assisted dying laws.”

Responding to the lodging of the Assisted Dying Scotland Bill proposal, Ally Thomson, Director of Dignity in Dying Scotland, said:

“This represents a watershed moment for dying Scots. Momentum on changing the law to allow our dying citizens the right to a peaceful assisted death has been building and it is clear that the current blanket ban is unjust and unsustainable. Given the majority of Scots support the proposals and want the Parliament to take swift action, this is clearly the right bill at the right time. So many families across Scotland have spoken out about the injustice of the current law and the suffering it permits. It is right that their voices have been heard.

There is rigorous research and robust evidence from across the world to show that legalising assisted dying is the compassionate and safe thing to do. I am delighted to welcome the introduction of the Bill and urge MSPs to listen to the people of Scotland, examine the evidence before them, and back this Bill.”

The bill is supported by a group of MSPs from each party represented in the Scottish Parliament, who have outlined their support in an open letter also published yesterday.

Now, more than ever, we need your support to get this bill over the line – it has been a long time coming but we are at the start of a tough battle where the opposition are well funded and well organised, please donate to our campaign today to help us change the law.