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‘Compelling evidence’ to make assisted dying legal

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‘Compelling evidence’ to make assisted dying legal

Legislation to introduce the bill in Scotland has been published today

Legislation to introduce assisted dying for terminally ill people in Scotland has been published at Holyrood – with the MSP behind it insisting there is “compelling evidence” to support the move.

Liam McArthur said he is “confident” the Scottish Parliament will back his legislation when it comes before it for a vote, adding “robust safeguards” are included in the Bill.

A consultation by Mr McArthur ahead of publication of his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill found 76% of the 14,038 people who took part fully support such a change, with another 2% partially supporting it.

Opponents of the legislation have said they fear it would see the lives of people who are ill or disabled being “devalued”, with the Bishop of Paisley John Keenan branding it is a “dangerous idea”.

With Holyrood likely to vote on the proposals later this year, it will be the third time MSPs have considered the issue – with two previous attempts to change the law overwhelmingly defeated.

Liberal Democrat Mr McArthur said MSPs will “want to look closely at the detail and consider the compelling evidence supporting a change in the law”, but he added: “I’m confident Parliament will back my proposals to give terminally ill adults the choice they need.”

His Bill sets out plans to give people over the age of 16 with an advanced terminal illness the option of requesting an assisted death.

They would have to have the mental capacity to make such a request, which would have to be made voluntarily without them being coerced.

Two doctors would have to be satisfied of the patient’s condition, and also that they have not been pressurised into their decision.

Only people who have lived in Scotland for at least a year would be allowed to make such a request. The Bill also sets out a mandatory 14-day “reflection” period between a qualifying patient making a request and being given the necessary medication.

At this point, a medical professional would make a final check on the patient’s capacity.

Mr McArthur said: “This Bill contains robust safeguards, similar to those which have been safely and successfully introduced in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States, where they continue to enjoy strong public support.

“Our current laws on assisted dying are failing too many terminally ill Scots at the end of life.

“Too often, and despite the best efforts of palliative care, dying people are facing traumatic deaths that harm both them and those they leave behind.

“Polling has consistently shown overwhelming public support for assisted dying, and now I believe that politicians are catching up with where the public has been for some time.”

A survey by campaign group Dignity in Dying found an average of 78% support for the Bill across Scotland, with the group saying this shows “an unshakeable majority of support” for the change.

Ally Thomson, director of Dignity in Dying Scotland, said: “The message from constituents to their MSPs is strikingly clear – it is time to change the law and vote to give dying people the choice of safe and compassionate assisted dying.

“The Bill published today provides the compassion and choice dying people need and puts safety and protection in place where none currently exists.”

But Bishop Keenan said: “Liam McArthur has today published a damaging Bill which attacks human dignity and introduces a dangerous idea that a citizen can lose their value and worth.

“Assisted suicide sends a message that there are situations when suicide is an appropriate response to one’s individual circumstances, worries, anxieties.

“It normalises suicide and accepts that some people are beyond hope.

“Furthermore, assisted suicide undermines trust in doctors and damages the doctor-patient relationship.

“In countries where assisted suicide is legal, there is evidence that vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled, experience external pressure to end their lives.”

Dr Gillian Wright, a former palliative care registrar who is part of the Our Duty of Care campaign, also spoke out against the proposals.

She said: “The primary danger of assisted ­suicide is that individual lives are devalued by society because they are ill, disabled, confused, or that their contribution to society is perceived to be minimal.

“We are encouraged that ordinary doctors and nurses from across Scotland have joined together to send a definite message to MSPs.

“We do understand that there is suffering at the end of life, but this should drive us as a society not to provide assisted suicide, but instead well-funded, accessible, high-quality palliative care for all.”

Professor David Galloway, a former president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, said: “Medicalised killing should never find a place as a healthcare option. It runs counter to every instinct involved in medical training and practice.”

Former MP and MSP Dennis Canavan, who has seen three of his children die from terminal illnesses, also urged Holyrood to vote against the Bill.

He said: “I have probably had more than my fair share of deaths in my family, having suffered the loss of four children, three of them as the result of terminal illness.

“My children undoubtedly underwent some pain, but it was minimised by caring health professionals. As a result, my children died in dignity and I do not accept that the option of assisted suicide is necessary to ensure dignity in death.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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