MSP wins right to introduce right to die members bill at Holyrood

The Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill would make Scotland first in the UK to legalise the right to end one’s life.

Liam McArthur MSP wins right to introduce Assisted Dying bill in Scottish Parliament iStock

An MSP has won the right to introduce a members’ bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people in Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur lodged a final proposal with the parliament in early September, initiating a 30-day window for him to garner cross-party support from at least 18 MSPs.

This goal was reached within two hours of the final proposal being lodged, receiving backing from 36 MSPs – more than a quarter of members, and as many as the number who voted for the previous assisted dying bill in the chamber at stage one.

It has now been confirmed that McArthur has the right to introduce the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill in Parliament, which would make Scotland first in the UK to legalise the right to end one’s life.

Proposals aim to introduce the right to an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, but have twice been voted down by Holyrood.

“The support among colleagues has been deeply heartening, and demonstrates the growing recognition that there is a need to end the ban on assisted dying in Scotland,” he said, thanking his colleagues.

It comes after a public consultation on assisted dying in September, which elicited a record 14,038 responses.

More than 75% of those who responded expressed full support, with a further 2% partially supporting a change in the law.

McArthur will now work with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bills Unit (NGBU) to draft a bill, which he aims to introduce to the parliament in early 2023.

He said: “The Scottish public has long been ahead of the parliament on this issue. The public consultation on these proposals, published last month, demonstrated that there is strong and passionate support for offering people more choice at the end of their life.

“I now look forward to working with colleagues in parliament to bring forward a safe, robust, and compassionate bill.

“I remain committed to a process which carefully considers the views of the public, organisations and healthcare professionals, as well as international experience, to craft legislation which is tightly drawn and contains strong safeguards.”

Under the terms of the law, which has been backed by some cross-party colleagues and the Humanist Society, two doctors would be required to independently confirm the person is terminally ill, establish that the person has the mental capacity to request assisted dying and assess that the person is making an informed decision without pressure or coercion.

Medics would also have to ensure the person has been fully informed of palliative, hospice, and other care options, while the patient themselves would sign a written declaration of their request followed by a “period of reflection” during which they may change their minds.

Patients would administer the life-ending medication themselves and every assisted death would be recorded and reported for safety, monitoring, and research purposes.

Any bill is likely to be presented to parliament next year at the earliest.

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