Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Assisted dying call: Holyrood told to get behind ‘unprecedented’ public response

Liam McArthur MSP

MSPs are facing calls to swing their support behind a public campaign for legalised assisted dying in Scotland, as a major consultation draws to an end.

For the past few weeks, people have been having their say on proposals offering an alternative to fears of a “prolonged and painful final days”.

We shared heartbreaking experiences from those who want change after seeing loved ones die.

And we shared views of people worried about the impact on society.

While demand for a change appears to be growing, those on the other side fear a change in the law would open up a “Pandora’s box” for marginalised groups experiencing “widespread harm”.

Speaking as the consultation ends on December 22, Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur already thinks this is the biggest response to any backbencher’s bill in the history of devolution.

“It is safe to say the level of response to this is unprecedented,” he said.

McArthur’s hopes for third time lucky

This is not the first time Holyrood has looked at legalised assisted dying.

A previous assisted dying bill was brought forward by the late independent MSP Margo MacDonald in 2010.

She died with Parkinson’s Disease in 2014 and co-leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie brought it back to parliament for a second time in 2015.

Late MSP Margo MacDonald

On both occasions Holyrood decided there were significant flaws in the bills and they were rejected.

However, Mr McArthur believes this will be third time lucky, and is appealing to his fellow MSPs to get behind his proposals.

He said: “I am not sure the public has shifted all that much, there has consistently been strong support to change the law for assisted dying for some time now.

“But in each instance this strong support has not been reflected in the views amongst MSPs, therefore earlier attempts to bring this forward have been unsuccessful.

“I suspect this time there will be a change in mind, and that is a reflection of the fact there have been two election since the last parliament considered this proposal.

“My MSP colleagues also now come to this issue with lived experience of family members or close friends going through a bad death that is prolonged and painful in the final days and weeks.”

Laura Ritchie, from Aberdeen, and mum Wilma Ritchie. She shared their story in a call for assisted dying laws.

He claimed the current blanket ban on assisted dying in Scotland is “unsustainable” as it leads to too many instances where someone is beyond the reach of palliative care.

Mr McArthur said: “This leaves them with the option of going to Switzerland weeks or months sooner than they maybe need to, or taking matters into their own hands by refusing food and liquids or by even more dramatic and traumatic means.”

Opening ‘Pandora’s box’

Despite Mr McArthur’s belief there is “strong support” for legalised assisted dying in Scotland, there are groups campaigning to make sure the law stays as it is.

Better Way says legalising assisted dying drives attention away from care in the community and proper palliative care.

They also say this means Scotland is debating dignity in death before there is true dignity in life.

Dr Miro Girffiths, a Leverhulme research fellow in disability studies and a spokesman for the Better Way campaign, says it will also have a particularly adverse effect on disabled people.

Dr Miro Griffiths

He said: “I am not ignoring the prevalence of pain, distress and fear that can – sometimes – accompany health conditions, illnesses and impairments.

“I am aware this exists, and I experience it personally.

“I am arguing that we cannot pass legislation and policy measures based on a tiny number of individuals’ anecdotal experiences.”

He said disabled people’s human rights violations are real.

“Disabled people are denied opportunities to participate in their communities,” he said.

“Disabled people do not receive sufficient support to have a valued, respected role in society.

“If the assisted dying bill was not to pass these issues would still exist.

“If the assisted dying bill was to pass, these issues would likely be compounded, as would inequalities faced by other groups.

“I urge MSPs not to open the door to assisted suicide.

“Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it leads to serious and widespread harms affecting the most marginalised in society.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in



More from the Press and Journal Scottish politics team

More from the Press and Journal