A new Bill to legalise assisted suicide is being launched in Holyrood.
Liam McArthur MSP, supported by pro-assisted suicide groups including Dignity in Dying Scotland (formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) and the Humanist Society Scotland, is proposing to remove legal protections for vulnerable patients who are terminally ill.
Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010.
McArthur’s claims that the Bill will contain “strong safeguards”, such as a test for mental competency, has met with fierce opposition.
Holyrood’s first permanent wheelchair user, Scottish Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP, described the Bill as “dangerous for disabled people”. She added: “We need to make sure living is better for disabled people than death.”
The SNP’s national disabled members’ convener, Jamie Szymkowiak, is backing Glancy and others opposed to the change. He vowed: “I’m going to fight Holyrood’s assisted suicide bill with every fibre of my being. The voices of disabled people in Scotland will be heard.”
Writing in The Times, former editor of The Scotsman, Magnus Linklater said the Bill would make Scotland “a destination for the dying”.
Speaking to The Christian Institute, Dr Gordon Macdonald of Care Not Killing warned that the so-called safeguards would be eroded, as has happened in the Netherlands, Belgium and the US state of Oregon.
He said that, as elsewhere, it would be “introduced on the basis of autonomy and rights”, but would ultimately be driven by other factors – such as “saving money” and the notion that some lives are “not worth living”.
He added that this was a “very dangerous development” and one that Scotland should not pursue.
In 2015, MSPs rejected Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill by 82 votes to 36.
A majority of MSPs in both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour parties voted against the Bill, with MSPs from the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the SNP also rejecting the legislation, but both Scottish Green MSPs voted in favour of the Bill.
Last month, Baroness Meacher’s Private Members’ Bill, seeking to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales, was introduced in the House of Lords. It is expected to be debated later this year.
A consultation on McArthur’s Bill will take place in the autumn, with a vote anticipated in Holyrood next year.