Plans for a change in the law to allow those with severe terminal medical conditions to end their life early have received “overwhelming” support from the public before they make it to Holyrood, according to the MSP presenting it.
Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur said over 76% of those who responded to a consultation on the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill supported the move which would make Scotland the first part of the UK to legalise the right to end one’s life.
The proposals aim to introduce the right to an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, but have twice been voted down by Holyrood.
McArthur insisted the law’s “time had come” but now must gain the support of fellow politicians before the legislation can be passed.
“As well as thoughtful perspectives on how an assisted dying law would work in Scotland, I have heard from dying people who would very much like to have this choice available to them as their illness progresses,” he said.
“People who, right now, face a series of unimaginable choices and would have peace of mind in their final months knowing that if they need it when the time comes they can have a peaceful death that is right for them.
“I have also been particularly struck by many harrowing accounts from those who witnessed their loved ones endure a bad death.
“They sent a powerful message that, even with excellent palliative care, the option of an assisted death would have made such a difference in terms of reducing unnecessary suffering. A safe and compassionate assisted dying law is a law that’s time has come.”
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.
A total of 14,083 responses were received during the consultation phase – the highest number to date for a consultation on a proposed members bill.
“I am confident of receiving the necessary signatures from my MSP colleagues which allows me to proceed with the drafting of a Bill I hope to introduce to Parliament next year,” McArthur said.
“I then look forward to taking the Bill through its Parliamentary journey.”
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