Assisted Dying: Scots remain divided over controversial bill to introduce assisted dying in Scotland

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The Scottish Parliament is leading the way in the UK on the complex question of assisted dying but Scots remained divided on the issue.

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

A members bill to legalise assisted dying was lodged by Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur in September.

This is the third time in recent years parliament has considered legislation aimed at introducing the right to an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

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Pic Lisa Ferguson  12/06/2019

Shona ElliottPic Lisa Ferguson  12/06/2019

Shona Elliott
Pic Lisa Ferguson 12/06/2019 Shona Elliott

They were brought forward by the independent MSP Margo MacDonald and - after Ms MacDonald’s death from Parkinson’s disease - Patrick Harvie, the Green Party co-leader.

Both measures failed to win enough support from MSPs to become law but more politicians, some previously opposed, have since spoken out in support of assisted dying.

Ruth Davidson has said she regrets her “mistake” in voting against a bill on assisted dying, with the Scottish Conservative MSP saying it was time for the law to change.

In a column for The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Davidson said her experiences of IVF treatment and some of those close to her suffering from dementia had led to a change of heart on assisted dying.

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Frank Field, the former Labour MP for Birkenhead, has also backed a law that would allow assisted dying after revealed that he is terminally ill.

To be able to choose is exceptionally important

Growing support for the bill is not limited to the political sphere. Many Scots who have watched loved ones suffer at the end of their life support changing current legislation.

Leighanne Baird-Sangster’s wife Gill suffered a prolonged, painful death after being diagnosed with melanoma cancer in May 2020, aged 44.

Since losing her wife last year, Ms Braid-Sangster, 42, based in Corstorphine, Edinburgh, said she supports allowing terminally ill adults to choose to end their lives with assistance from doctors.

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She said: “I support the bill, so that no one else goes through what my wife did, suffering a prolonged painful death.

“To be able to know when you want to say your goodbyes, to be able to choose what to do on your last day and who you’re with when the time comes – to give that element of control back to our terminally ill patients, to me that is exceptionally important.”

Ms Baird-Sangster's story featured in a recent episode of BBC ALBA's flagship European current affairs programme Eòrpa which aired on Thursday, November 18 at 8.30pm. The programme will also be available to watch for 30 days on the BBC iPlayer

Even when dying they have dignity

While support for the bill appears high, many Scots remain firmly opposed to assisted dying and instead believe palliative care should be improved.

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For retired surgeon and Free Church of Scotland minister Dr Donald MacDonald, his opposition to the bill is rooted in his Christian faith.

The Church of Scotland remains opposed to any changes to the law which would permit assisted dying.

While Dr MacDonald’s opposition reflects his Christian beliefs, he is also led by his own experiences as a disabled person.

The 77-year-old from Kildonan, Sutherland has MS and said most disabled people he has spoken to are firmly opposed to the bill.

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Dr MacDonald went on to say that the main argument for the change of legislation is to provide patients with dignity at the end of life, but he fundamentally disagrees with this argument stating human dignity can not be removed by illness.

He said: “I think human dignity is an inherent thing, which comes from being human in itself, and can’t be taken away. So that even people in their weakness, even when they’re dying, they’ve still got dignity.”

Mr MacDonald’s story is also featured on Eòrpa still available on the BBC iPlayer

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