Call to action on the Assisted Dying Bill

You will be aware that Liam McArthur has presented his “Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill”. Now is the time to act by writing to your MSP. For some background to the Bill, see here:

Catholic Church responds to “damaging” Assisted Suicide Bill: You can also read a Statement by Bishop Keenan, the Bishop of Paisley who has described it as the introduction of “a dangerous idea that a citizen can lose their value and worth.”  Bishop Keenan adds:

“Assisted suicide sends a message that there are situations when suicide is an appropriate response to one’s individual circumstances, worries, anxieties. It normalises suicide and accepts that some people are beyond hope.”  You can read his response here:

For a wider UK perspective, you can also read this statement by the English Bishops, responding to a recent Health and Social Care Select Committee Report on Assisted Suicide, here:

 Archbishop John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark, has also issued a pastoral message on assisted suicide, making clear that we are called to care for those suffering, not to bring about their death. You can see his full message here:

If you want to read the bill with supporting information, you can find it at the following link.

It is well worth reading the Bill, so you can see what is being purposed:

So, what can I do and how may I be able to influence the outcome of this debate? The most important thing you can do is to write to, or arrange to see, your MSP and now is the time to do that. In considering the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill, MSPs face complex, important, and high-profile issues and decisions without the usual Party guidance on how to vote. They are therefore likely to welcome informed and considered opinion which helps them to discharge their responsibilities. Given their interest in re-election, MSPs want to know where their constituents stand on issues.

As you may know, in Scotland everyone has eight MSPs – one constituency MSP, and seven regional MSPs. By entering a postcode at the following link, your relevant local MSPs can be identified:

When writing to your MSP, you can send all eight MSP’s the same letter. For the best response, make your letter personal, and email it from your own address, not using a “Form Letter”. This is important since, during the “Consultation Process”, Liam McArthur excluded three thousand voices as he said ‘they seem to come from the same address.’ These voices were all from people who opposed his Bill. He then included all the voices coming from “Dignity in Dying” – the group which has been supporting his work.

In addition to writing to MSPs with your views, individuals can also ask to meet them, either locally or at the Parliament. This will have more impact than simply writing a letter. MSPs are likely to value an invitation to visit relevant organisations and this can be a high impact way of them learning more about an organisation’s work and its relationship to the proposed legislation.

Click this link to access the online resource from the Catholic Parliamentary Office for further clear advice.

You could also sign this declaration:

If you do get a response from MSPs who have stated how they intend to vote you could email the Catholic Parliamentary officer at  We can then use this to target MSPs who may need more information on the implications of the Bill for society here in Scotland.

Here are some key points you may want to ask your MSP about in your letter:

On the face of it, the Bill would provide assisted suicide to terminally ill Scottish residents aged 16 or over.

  • The Bill defines “terminal illness” as “an advanced and progressive disease, illness or condition from which they are unable to recover and that can reasonably be expected to cause their premature death.” We know how unreliable prognoses can be, but the fact that no life expectancy is specified means that this bill could in reality apply to many chronically ill and disabled people who exercise their right to forego life-sustaining treatment.
  • The last Holyrood bill in 2015 rejected that Bill by 82 to 36 votes. It did however acknowledge “assisted suicide” in its title; Liam McArthur’s insistence now on the preferred euphemism of Dignity in Dying campaigners, “assisted dying”, ignores how often it is misunderstood by the public. This Bill is asking for Physician Assisted Suicide. The debate would be better served by using plan descriptive language. So you could ask your MSPs why the Bill is not called “The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill” as it was in 2015? (They have made the change to make it more palatable to the public and politically acceptable).
  • The assessing doctors are not required to refer applicants for specialist assessment if they have doubts about the individual’s terminal illness or capacity – so no review by a Psychiatrist or Oncologist.
  • The Bill does require that death certificates falsely list the underlying illness as cause of death, rather than the planned ingestion of a lethal substance or suicide as the main cause of death.
  • It pays lip service to Palliative Care, but says nothing about improving Palliative Care Provision by investment. You can see this paper by Francis Edwards on this here:

Other aspects include:

  • Allowing a 48-hour reflection period presumes doctors can identify end-stage illness. How many treatable hypercalcaemic or septic patients will have their lives ended?
  • The exclusion of people with a learning disability (a discriminatory assumption that they don’t have capacity) and the inclusion of those dependent on drugs or alcohol (on the assumption they all have capacity).
  • A statement making clear there will be no further investment in palliative care.
  • Formal reports will not include complications. This is surprising given that an average of 9% of Oregon patients have a complication (a figure that excludes prolonged deaths).
  • The intention is for ministers to set the regulations for what an ‘approved substance’ is by excluding Assisted Dying drugs from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. That an ‘approved substance’ and that some regulated medicines/controlled drugs would come under the competence of Ministers assumes that Ministers have this competence. Do Ministers have the competence to do this?


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