Fresh moves to bring in assisted dying laws

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Charity campaigners disagree over whether Scotland should introduce the right to die

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20th April 2018 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

Fresh moves to introduce assisted dying laws in Scotland have split charity campaigners.

MSPs on the parliament’s human rights committee are considering a new inquiry into the issue, which has seen legislation twice rejected by the full parliament.

Dying in Dignity director Ally Thomson told the committee there is increasing public support for assisted dying laws. She cited a recent poll which suggested three-quarters of Scots back a change to the law.

She said: “This parliament can take action, it’s empowered to take action and we believe very strongly that it should."

However, disability group Inclusion Scotland said the parliament would be better focusing its efforts on improving life for people with disabilities and life-limiting conditions.

Inclusion Scotland’s Bill Scot said previous assisted suicide bills in the Scottish Parliament included people with disabilities, not just terminal illness.

The fear is that the right to die could be misused and that people might use it to take their own life during periods of depression or that older people may be tempted for fear of being a burden to their families.

Scott said: “I would much rather this parliament talk about how we uphold the right to life.”

The late independent MSP Margo Macdonald, who died of Parkinson’s disease in 2014, campaigned strongly for the right to die. She introduced the issue to the Scottish Parliament including through a 2013 Assisted Suicide members bill. In May 2015 it fell following its stage 1 debate.

Some MSPs on the committee, however, suggested that there has been a sufficient change in mood amongst parliamentarians, which could enable a new bill to pass.

Liberal democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton suggested current MSPs have a “more progressive” view on the issue.

He said: “I would very much like to see a refreshed inquiry with a view to bringing forward cross-party sponsored legislation.

“As a parliament, we are on the wrong side of history and of public opinion on this. We’ve done quite a lot of work to gauge the opinion of the new cadre of MSPs and I do think there is a more progressive attitude held by not necessarily more than half, but pretty close to half of the MSPs.

“But what’s interesting is that people who have previously voted against assisted dying are increasingly having conversations where they’re indicating that they may be on a journey, and perhaps even willing to change their position.”

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie, who took on Macdonald’s members bill after she died, also said he thought the “balance is slowly changing.”

24th April 2018 by Oliver Pereira

There is nothing "progressive" about doing away with the right to life and making it easier to kill people, especially when those people are the most vulnerable: those who are ill and severely disabled. That Alex Cole-Hamilton has it completely backwards. The pushing of public opinion towards support for killing off the weaker members of society is regression, not progress. It is a sign of the ugliest side of human nature, always most prominent when people are suffering the effects of austerity. We can see this most clearly in Germany in the 1930s.