A group of people standing in Scottish parliament in front of a banner reading "78% of Scots support assisted dying." Each holds a copy of Liam McArthur's bill. L-R Julie Laing from Friends at the End, Alyson Thomson from Dignity in Dying, Liam McArthur MSP, Emma Cooper from Friends at the End, and Fraser Sutherland, CEO of Humanist Society Scotland..

Assisted dying bill for Scotland published

March 28, 2024

Liam McArthur MSP’s Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill has been lodged at Scottish Parliament and published on 28 March 2024.

Humanist Society Scotland is delighted to note the beginning of the bill’s passage through Holyrood. Assisted dying could soon be legal in Scotland, offering choice and compassion to thousands of people as they reach the ends of their lives.

The bill is lodged as a new poll commissioned by our allies at Dignity in Dying finds that more than three quarters of people in Scotland are in favour of legalised assisted dying.

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland said:

“Today marks a key milestone in the campaign to give dying people the right to choice and comfort. We know from the extensive testimony gathered from both the public and health professionals during pre-bill consultation that too many people in Scotland suffer a bad death needlessly. Many compassionate alternatives have proved effective overseas, and it’s time for the same humanity to be extended to people in Scotland.

 “We hope MSPs will look at the overwhelming evidence that supports the introduction of assisted dying in Scotland. We also hope they will reject the fearmongering ‘slippery-slope’ arguments put forward by religious opponents to this bill, who offer no answers for those who suffer needlessly. The bill presented today is moderate, rational, and compassionate. It has substantial safeguards baked in, based on what has worked in other countries. These should alleviate concerns like those raised by MSPs during previous attempts to change the law.

 “Assisted dying should be available to terminally ill people in Scotland, not just those that can afford to access to services overseas.”

Fraser Sutherland, CEO of Humanist Society Scotland, addresses a crowd in a blue suit infront of an HSS banner.

The bill presented today is moderate, rational, and compassionate. It has substantial safeguards baked in, based on what has worked in other countries.

Fraser Sutherland, CEO Humanist Society Scotland

Extensive safeguards in legislation

The publication of the bill gives the Scottish public their first chance to scrutinise Liam McArthur’s proposed legislation and its extensive safeguards. The bill’s eligibility criteria make clear that individuals must:

For the purposes of the Bill, terminal illness is defined as: “an advanced and progressive disease, illness or condition from which [a person is] unable to recover and that can reasonably be expected to cause their premature death.” The bill specifically precludes assisted dying for people with illnesses, conditions, or disabilities, either physical or mental, that are not terminal.

The bill makes clear that no individual is obliged to participate in administering an assisted death if they have a conscientious objection to it.

How assisted dying will work

The bill clarifies the intended procedure for assisted dying. Each application would have to be approved by an individual’s healthcare team, and then by two independent medical practitioners. The applicant would have all palliative care and alternative treatment options explained to them. Screenings would be carried out to ensure mental capacity and that no third-party coercion is taking place.

Each individual would then have to make a second declaration of their wish for an assisted death, a minimum of 14 days after the first (except in exceptional cases where death is believed to be imminent, when this may be reduced to 48 hours). Then, they would have the substance delivered to them on an agreed date at an agreed time. They would self-administer this whilst accompanied by a healthcare practitioner.

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland on the assisted dying bill

Further safeguards

An individual seeking an assisted death would be able opt out at any time under the terms of the bill. The bill also makes clear that no individual is obliged to participate in any aspect of administering an assisted death if they have a conscientious objection to it. The bill criminalises the coercion of an individual into an assisted death.

For more information on the assisted dying bill, visit assisteddying.scot.

Tell your MSP the Time is Now for an Assisted Dying law

Please help us reach every MSP in Scotland to ask them to support Liam McArthur’s Assisted Dying bill in Scotland.

Title image C. Wikipedia/CC

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