​Death would be much easier to deal with if we had some control over how we died - Susan Dalgety

​What is a bad death? For me, it would be dying in a hospital bed, surrounded by strangers, being poked and prodded by medical staff while my life ebbed away.
Liam McArthur is bringing forward a Bill to legalise assisted dying in ScotlandLiam McArthur is bringing forward a Bill to legalise assisted dying in Scotland
Liam McArthur is bringing forward a Bill to legalise assisted dying in Scotland

​When I go, and I have had to accept the inevitable, that yes, I will die one day, I want to be at home.

I would prefer to know about it in advance, so I could prepare with newly laundered sheets, a last glass of very good red wine, my loving family by my side.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

My one big fear is being struck down suddenly by a stroke or heart attack and not having time to say goodbye to my husband and the cat. Or to listen to David Bowie one last time.

Very few of us have any control over how we die. Our last few months, weeks or days are dictated by others. By care staff, doctors, family, anyone but the person whose life is coming to an end.

One of my abiding memories of my mother-in-law, was not of the happy Saturday afternoons we enjoyed window shopping, but of her desperate pleas to die, as the lung disease that was suffocating her became uncontrollable.

She died, not at home comforted by her memories, but in a busy ward, just another old woman blocking a bed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But that could be about to change. Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur now has enough support among MSPs to introduce his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament, and if he does there will be a vote on its general principles later in the year.

He is the third MSP to try to get such a law passed. Co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie tried in 2015, but his bill was roundly defeated, as was the one redoubtable Lothian MSP Margo Macdonald tried to push through in 2010.

Mr McArthur believes that MSPs are now more open to the idea.

“It’s one of those things where, once we pass the legislation we will wonder why on earth it took us so long to get to this position.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He acknowledges that it is a difficult topic and that people have very strong opinions about the subject, but as he points out, there is overwhelming public support for the principle of assisted death.

The charity Friends at the End (FATE) which campaigns to change the law, says that the level of public support for assisted dying sits at between 65 and 85 per cent.

And it points out that doctors can already administer “continuous deep” sedation to terminal patients, but that there is no currently no legal framework to oversee this process.

And the dying person cannot request it, no matter their physical or emotional pain. We have no choice about how we die.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Campaigners against assisted dying, most notably Labour MSP Pam Duncan Glancy, who is a permanent wheelchair user, argue that the bill is “dangerous for disabled people”.

They are wrong. There is nothing in what Liam McArthur proposes that would harm people living with a disability. Suggesting otherwise is just scaremongering.

If we are honest, we all fear death. But how much easier it would be to deal with it if we had some control over how we died.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.