Today, the MSP for Orkney, Liam McArthur, initiated a public consultation on his proposal for a new Members Bill that would change the law on assisted dying in Scotland.
The proposals for the bill are explained at length in this consultation which will run from Thursday 23rd of September until Wednesday the 22nd of December 2021
Mr. McArthur’s statement upon launching the bill was:
“In my time as an MSP I have heard from many dying people and grieving families who have been failed by the current blanket ban on assisted dying. I have watched other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand put new laws in place to ensure their citizens can have a peaceful and dignified death and I believe that the time is right for Scotland to look again at providing our dying people with more choice at the end of life. The consultation proposals form a blueprint for how we can do this safely and compassionately.
The proposals work alongside palliative care and apply only to terminally ill, mentally competent adults. They feature strong safeguards that put transparency, protection and compassion at the core of a prospective new law. How we die is an issue for our whole society and I am keen that this public consultation encourages a nationwide discussion on what we need to do to give dying people the help and support they need to have a good death. I encourage people to respond with their views and experiences. ”
Safeguards included in the consultation proposals include:
- Two doctors independently confirm the person is terminally ill, establish that the person has the mental capacity to request assisted dying, assess that the person is making an informed decision without pressure or coercion
- Two doctors ensure the person has been fully informed of palliative, hospice, and other care options
- The person signs a written declaration of their request, this is followed by a period of reflection
- The person must administer the life-ending medication themselves; it would continue to be a criminal offence to end someone’s life directly
- Every assisted death would be recorded and reported for safety, monitoring, and research purposes
- The proposed bill is supported by a steering group of MSPs from each party represented in the Scottish Parliament
- It is also supported by campaigning organisations Dignity in Dying Scotland, Friends at the End and Humanist Society Scotland.
Participation of Healthcare professionals
In a historic day for proponents and supporters of assisted dying across the United Kingdom, the British Medical Association changed for the first time its stance, from opposition to neutrality. Better reflecting the variety of views within the medical community, as seen last year during the largest survey ever performed on medical opinion on the subject, where 61% of members were found to disagree with the BMA’s opposition. This change paves the way for a better informed public debate on assisted dying and for medical experts to advise every stage of a would-be law.
England and Wales
The House of Lords performed the First Reading on a private member’s bill on assisted dying introduced by Baroness Molly Meacher, and a second Reading is scheduled for October the 22nd 2021, another date of great significance for proponents and supporters of the bill across the United Kingdom. Most surveys agree that the majority of the British population already support assisted dying.
The Rest of the World
Assisted dying is becoming more and more common and it is already legal in many jurisdictions of the fairest, most democratic and prosperous nations on earth, where increasingly, dignity in dying, personal agency and the right to a good death in our own terms are fundamental human rights.
Currently Assisted Dying is allowed in Switzerland and wider-encompassing legislations exist in the BENELUX area. 11 US jurisdictions currently allow for assisted dying as an option for the terminally ill. Three Australian provinces have legalised assisted dying.
Following a referendum in 2020, New Zealand is poised to legalise assisted dying by October 2021 in the so-called End of Life Choice Act. Pre-legislative scrutiny of an assisted dying bill is undergoing in Ireland. Spain passed its own law last March. Austria and Germany’s courts have struck down the blanket bans on assisted dying over the last couple of years and have begun considering potential assisted dying legislation.
Friends at the End
As an organisation that campaigns for the introduction of Assisted-Dying legislation, we firmly believe that terminally ill adults should have the right to end their suffering at a time of their choosing and with help of the best physicians available. This would have a dramatic effect on the mental wellbeing of people who are terminally ill and currently have no option but to endure unnecessary suffering. The largest portion of society agrees with this sentiment and, as we leave behind old taboos and people get to participate openly in the conversation, the moment is now to reconsider our choices, our autonomy and our freedom when our lives come to an end. We support MSP Liam McArthur’s proposals and we invite everyone to participate in this process.
- The consultation opens on Thursday 23rd September 2021 and will run until Wednesday 22nd December 2021.
- You can find an online copy of the consultation at:
- (www.parliament.scot) under Parliamentary Business / Bills / Proposals for Members’ Bills and also at www.assisteddying.scot
- There are British Sign Language (BSL) and Easy Read versions available at www.assisteddying.scot
Find more about what we do as an organisation by visiting our website at:
or have a listen to episode 1 of our podcast where Liam McArthur and Amanda Ward discuss at length the consultation process at: