I campaigned for an Assisted Dying bill on the two previous occasions that it’s been offered to the Scottish Parliament, so I’m glad that it’s coming up for debate again soon. (The image above comes from the 2014 campaign).
The first time was more than ten years ago, in 2010, and it’s encouraging to see that public support for the bill has become even stronger since then. in 2021, a YouGov poll showed that three quarters of the general population support the idea, but surprisingly, only 35% of politicians do.
It seems odd that the very people who claim to represent us are so out of step with their constituents.
If you visit the Dignity in Dying website, you’ll see that they make available a report on the experience in Oregon, where Assisted Dying was made legal in 1997. As the report shows, the legislation works. Assisted Dying has proven to be a safe and trusted medical practice, and all the research shows that groups of potentially vulnerable people are not negatively impacted by the law.
Encouragingly, even those who were initially opposed to the law soon came to understand its compassionate value – politicians and faith leaders among them. The former Oregon Congressman and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden went so far as to say,
“Not only did I change my views, but I filibustered in the Senate to protect it [the Death with Dignity Act]. I consider it one of the most important things I’ve done in my time in public service.”
And the United Methodist church of the California-Pacific region said, “We also affirm that one of the greatest gifts God has given us as humans is the freedom to seek to live in dignity according to one’s own beliefs and faith. For many terminally ill persons faced with inevitable and unavoidable death, the growing death with dignity movement now provides such freedom.”
How will the bill fare at Holyrood? It’s hard to say. In the last couple of years, many other countries around the world have enacted laws to make assisted dying available to those suffering terminal illness, New Zealand and Australia among them.
Here in Scotland, the family of Heather Black have powerfully shared the moving story of her death and the appalling suffering she endured with Dani Garavelli in Scotland on Sunday. There are other first person testimonies on the Dignity in Dying Scotland website too.
Some terminally ill people have been fortunate enough to be able to end their lives in the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland, but – as Richard Marsham and his sister Sacha told The Times (paywall) – that process is long, involved, complicated and expensive. Their mother was “hell-bent” on going there, but she almost didn’t make it because the paperwork was so demanding.
87% of Scots support assisted dying for terminal ill adults. But this bill could fail if not enough MSP’s support it. I know that my MSP in Edinburgh West doesn’t. Do you know what yours thinks?
It’s too late to respond to the consultation on The Assisted Dying Bill. That period closed at the end of last year. But it’s not too late to make your feelings known to your MSP. You can sign the official ‘Record of Support’ here.
There is always more strength in numbers, so if you’re interested in campaigning in your local area, click here.
I hope you support this bill, but even if you don’t, I hope you’ll contact me and tell me why.