Safeguards which protect vulnerable people from assisted suicide are a step closer to being removed in Scotland.
On Monday, Liam McArthur MSP confirmed he had secured the right to introduce his Assisted Dying (Scotland) Bill to Holyrood, after it gained sufficient cross-party support from parliamentarians.
McArthur’s plan would allow anyone aged 16 or over who is deemed terminally ill and has been resident in Scotland for 12 months to receive help to take their own lives.
More than a quarter of MSPs backed the proposal, with representatives from all the major parties among those in support. Draft legislation is expected to be presented to Holyrood early next year.
Over 14,000 responses were submitted to the public consultation on the Bill, the highest number ever received for a proposed Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament.
The MSP for Orkney and his team claimed that 78 per cent of respondents supported the proposals, with 21 percent warning that weakening the law would endanger the vulnerable.
However, more than 3,300 additional submissions opposing the Bill — mobilised by the Right To Life UK campaign — were adjudged to be ‘standard responses’ and discounted.
Speaking on behalf of campaign group Better Way, which opposes assisted suicide, disability policy expert Dr Miro Griffiths called on MSPs to reject the Bill.
He said: “In nations where assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, we have seen an undeniable lapse in the value ascribed to human beings. Disabled people and people with mental health conditions are not given the respect, protection, and affirmation they deserve.”
The Institute, which has more than 7,000 supporters in Scotland, said a change in the law would inevitably lead to vulnerable people feeling pressured into committing suicide for fear of being a burden.
Dave Greatorex, Head of Research at the CI, said: “People who contemplate ending their own lives and ask others for assistance are at their most vulnerable and emotional. They need a clear, firm law to protect them in their darkest moments, not easy access to lethal drugs.”
Two assisted suicide Bills have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament since 2010, most recently in 2015, when 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.
During a 2015 debate in Westminster, SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford spoke out powerfully against the practice.