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Assisted Dying Bill introduced to Scottish Parliament

Dignity in Dying

3 min read Partner content
  • First time Holyrood has considered legislation on assisted dying since 2015
  • Recent polling finds 86% Scots want Scottish Parliament to examine issue; 75% want this done within two years
  • Scottish bill comes as House of Lords due to debate legislation in autumn; Health Secretary commissions data on impact of assisted dying ban in England and Wales; and citizen’s jury on topic underway in Jersey

Today, Monday 21st June, Liam McArthur MSP for Orkney will lodge proposals in the Scottish Parliament for a new Members Bill which seeks to change the law on assisted dying in Scotland, paving the way for the first debate on prospective legislation in Holyrood for more than five years.

Supported by Dignity in Dying, the bill would legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, a change supported by 87% of the Scottish public. Recent polling has shown that 86% of Scots want the Scottish Parliament to examine the issue and 75% want this done within two years.

The bill is launched in Holyrood after a private member’s bill on assisted dying was introduced to the House of Lords last month, with a second reading due in autumn. In April the Health Secretary commissioned research from the Office for National Statistics on the impact of the blanket ban on assisted dying on terminally ill people who end their own lives at home and in Switzerland. 

A citizen’s jury on the topic has been taking place in Jersey since March 2021, with initial recommendations due to be published tomorrow (Tuesday 22 June 2021). Also due out tomorrow is polling on assisted dying and end of life care commissioned by Dignity in Dying in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. As British Crown Dependencies, these jurisdictions have the ability to legislate on assisted dying independently from the UK.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“Scotland’s new Assisted Dying Bill is a watershed moment, not only for dying Scots but for the whole of the UK. Soon, terminally ill Scots could have the choice and control that has been denied to them for far too long, bringing Scotland in line with the growing number of liberal, progressive societies around the world that pride themselves on safe, compassionate assisted dying laws. This sends a strong signal to Westminster that it is time to re-examine the blanket ban on assisted dying in England and Wales, which for 60 years has caused unbearable suffering for British families.

“With bills in Holyrood and Westminster, momentum for change is building right across the British Isles. Parliamentarians are starting to realise what the public has long known; that the current choices available to dying people are not sufficient, and that the time has come to pass safeguarded assisted dying laws for the people who really need them.”

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