Humanists say ‘the time is now’ as Assisted Dying Bill is Lodged

As Liam McArthur MSP for Orkney lodges a final proposal in the Scottish Parliament today for his Members Bill ‘Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland)’,  Humanist Society Scotland declares that the time is now to listen to the Scottish people and urges MSPs to vote with the views of the majority of their constituents.

A total of 14,038 consultation responses were received – the highest number of responses received to date for a consultation on a proposed Members Bill – and the majority of responses were fully supportive of the proposal (76%) with a further 2% of respondents being partially supportive.

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland said,

Humanism is rooted in the idea that all humans must have autonomy over their bodies, and the right to an assisted death has been something that we have supported and campaigned for across three attempts to change the law in  Scotland. Today we urge Scotland’s MSPs to back the bill and be on side with the views of the majority of Scotland’s population, and bring safe and legal access to assisted dying in Scotland.

The most common reason stated in the consultation for opposition to the proposed bill was a fundamental and religiously motivated belief that human life is sacred and should not be purposefully ended in any circumstances. Whilst we respect the right of people who are religious to hold this viewpoint and act accordingly in their own lives, we believe that Scotland’s laws should be formed to reflect the views of the majority, not minority religious views.

The proposed bill reflects the will of the Scottish people for safe and legal access to assisted dying for terminally ill, medically competent adults. It has been developed in consultation with medical and legal experts and will give terminally ill adults in Scotland choice at the end of life. For far too many years we have allowed minority views about the sanctity of life to derail efforts by medical and legal professionals to create safe and robust assisted dying legislation in Scotland. In that time too many people have suffered unnecessarily and against their will.

We say to Scotland’s MSPs, the Scottish people have spoken and the time is now. Please use this opportunity to deliver safe and legal access to assisted dying in Scotland.

The report’s findings include:

• A clear majority of respondents (76%) were fully supportive of the proposal, with a further
2% partially supportive.

Liam McArthur at ‘The Time is Now’ Symposium, Nov 2022

• Many respondents gave first hand experiences of living with, and caring for, family, friends and patients with a terminal illness who had experienced great pain and suffered what was often described as a “bad death”.

• The majority of respondents believe that assisted dying should be available for terminally ill
people in Scotland, as it is in other parts of the world, and that a humane society should make provision to spare its dying people from unbearable pain and suffering and allow them the autonomy to legally choose to end their lives in a safe and regulated manner.

• Many supportive respondents believe the proposal is an improvement on previous attempts to legislate for assisted dying and are fully satisfied with the proposed safeguards. Many believe that the proposal successfully balances the provision of a right to assisted death for competent terminally ill adults with a clear and appropriate set of safeguards built in to every step of the process, together with a right for health professionals involved to conscientiously object.

We have worked in coalition with Dignity in Dying Scotland and Friends at the End (FATE) to support the development of the Members Bill ‘Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland)’ and we will continue to work with the coalition until the bill is enshrined in Scots law.

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