April 4, 2024

Scotland to vote on legalising assisted dying for the third time

Scotland could become the first jurisdiction in the United Kingdom to legalise assisted dying. 

Scottish Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur tabled an assisted dying for terminally ill adults (Scotland) bill last week. He said that: ““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.”

This will be the third bill to legalise assisted dying tabled in Holyrood.

It is far from certain that this third attempt will pass on a conscience vote, although McArthur is confident. The First Minister, Humza Yousaf, is opposed, along with the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church in Scotland, and the Scottish Association of Mosques.

Surprisingly, the former First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who is still very influential, says that she is leaning towards a No vote. Writing in the Glasgow Times, she said “despite my expectations, the more deeply I think about the different issues involved, the more I find myself veering away from a vote in favour, not towards it.” 

“I worry that even with the best of intentions and the most carefully worded legislation, it will be impossible to properly guarantee that no-one at the end of their life will feel a degree of pressure, a sense that it might be better for others for them not be here – even if their loved ones try to persuade them otherwise.

“And, even more, fundamentally, I worry about the thin end of the wedge. That if we normalise assisted dying – if we come to associate dignity at the end of life with choosing to die, rather than being supported to live in as much peace and comfort as possible – then we will, as a society, lose focus on the palliative and end-of-life care and support that is necessary to help people, even in the worst of circumstances, to live with dignity. And I worry that, over time, this shift in collective mindset will see the tightly drawn provisions of this bill extended much further.”