A proposed member's bill that would allow competent adults who are terminally ill to request assistance to end their own lives has been published for consultation at the Scottish Parliament.
Introducing his proposal, Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney, states that his bill would differ from previous legislative proposals in that they are more limited in scope: "The intention is for the choice to be available to mentally competent and terminally ill adults only."
It would apply to people aged 16 or over, diagnosed as having a terminal illness in terms of the Scottish Government Social Security Policy on Terminal Illness, for whom two doctors have independently confirmed that they have the illness, that they have the mental capacity to request an assisted death, that they are not under pressure or coercion, and that they have been fully informed of palliative care, hospice and other options. It is suggested that the person should have 14 days to reflect on their decision, or less if they are expected to die within 30 days. A registered healthcare practitioner must be present when the life-ending medication is administered, checking that they retain their intention to die. The person must administer the medication themselves. It would continue to be a criminal offence to end someone's life directly.
Mr McArthur believes that "The current prohibition on such assistance [providing life-ending medication] is unjust and causes needless suffering for many dying people and their families across Scotland. If a person has reached the limits of palliative care and faces a bad death, none of the current options available to them in Scotland are likely to provide an acceptable alternative." He says his proposal has "strong safeguards" and "is modelled on legislation that has passed rigorous testing in other countries around the world".
Previous proposals have been voted down in the Parliament, but Mr McArthur claims the demand for change is growing. He adds: "I understand that some people hold different views but ask that they consider the issue in light of the evidence and actual proposals put forward here. This is a progressive reform that puts in place safeguards where none currently exist. In that sense, it is a protective measure."
Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 22 December 2021.