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by Tessa Guthrie
03 April 2024
Nicola Sturgeon unlikely to vote in favour of assisted dying bill

Nicola Sturgeon was first minister when similar legislation was last debates in Holyrood | Alamy

Nicola Sturgeon unlikely to vote in favour of assisted dying bill

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “veering away from a vote in favour” of legislation to legalise assisted dying.

Writing in her Glasgow Times column, the former first minister said that while everyone should have personal autonomy, especially in medical decisions, the negatives of the bill may outweigh the benefits.

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur published his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill last month.

It would allow adults, aged 16 or over, with an advanced terminal illness and no hope of recovery to be provided with assistance to end their life.

The patient would need to obtain the consent of two doctors who believe the patient is acting voluntarily and is mentally capable of the decision.

The patient must also be a resident of Scotland for over 12 months and must administer the life-ending medication themselves.

This is the fourth time similar legislation has be brought to Holyrood. It was last considered in 2015. Sturgeon voted against the legislation at that time.

On the current bill, she wrote: “The more deeply I think about the different issues involved, the more I find myself veering away from a vote in favour, not towards it.

“I worry that even with the best of intentions and the most carefully worded legislation, it will be impossible to properly guarantee that no one at the end of their life will feel a degree of pressure, a sense that it might be better for others for them not be here – even if their loved ones try to persuade them otherwise.”

She had previousl said she was "undecided" on the bill.

A poll by Dignity in Dying found that 78 per cent of respondents in Scotland supported “making it legal for someone to seek ‘assisted dying’ in the UK.”

McArthur said: “Our current laws on assisted dying are failing too many terminally ill Scots at the end of life. Too often, and despite the best efforts of palliative care, dying people are facing traumatic deaths that harm both them and those they leave behind.”

However many politicians have expressed concerns about the bill. First Minster Humza Yousaf said he is unlikely to vote in favour, in part due to concerns of people with disabilities being negatively impacted.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have also said they are minded to oppose it.

MSPs are expected to be given a free vote on the matter, also known as a ‘conscience vote’.

If passed, the controversial bill would bring Scotland in line with a number of other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and parts of the United States.

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