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Assisted Suicide Bill in Scotland not allowed to progress through Parliament

Bill defeated by 82 votes to 36

The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill has been voted out by MSPs at its Stage 1 debate in the Scottish Parliament. The Bill, brought forward by Patrick Harvie MSP, was voted out by 82 votes to 36 and will not pass on to Stage 2 where amendments could have been tabled.

While this means the Bill has been defeated, it is an improvement on the vote in 2010 when the late Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill was defeated at the same stage by 85 votes to 16, which means the share of the vote in favour has doubled from 15.8% to 30.5%.

Before the debate a report from Holyrood’s Health Committee declined to direct MSPs on how they should vote on the Bill, giving MSPs the opportunity to make up their own minds. The report stated there were ‘significant flaws’ in the Bill, but also recognised the diversity of strongly-held views on this important subject. The Bill was voted out at the Stage 1 debate on its general principles, meaning there will be no opportunity to improve the legislation.

The Assisted Suicide Bill was intended to give people the right to die if they were either suffering from a terminal illness or a life-limiting illness. This is different from Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill which was introduced in Westminster last year, with strict eligibility to ensure it could only be used by terminally ill, mentally competent people.

The Assisted Dying Bill was unanimously passed through its Second Reading in July, and won two votes during Committee Stage which demonstrated a majority of support amongst members of the House of Lords for a change in the law. The Bill ran out of time in the last Parliament, and Lord Falconer is set to re-introduce it at the earliest opportunity.

The largest poll ever conducted on assisted dying found that 82% of the public supported assisted dying for terminally ill people, including 83% of Scots and 80% of Christians.

Sir Graeme Catto, Chair of Dignity in Dying, said:
“I am frustrated for the people of Scotland who have again been denied a proper debate on this issue, including on the safeguards and eligibility criteria. People in Scotland will continue to suffer against their wishes as long as MSPs refuse to take a Bill on this issue seriously.

“In Westminster we have already had three full days of rigorous debate and amendments, showing there is a clear will to discuss changing the current law. Holyrood must be aware that we could soon find ourselves behind other parts of the UK, with a dying English or Welsh person given more choice and shown more compassion than those of us who reside in Scotland.

“Ultimately, we can no longer force people to travel abroad or take drastic measures behind closed doors. The current law is dangerous and turns a blind eye to people’s suffering.”


For all media enquires please contact Dignity in Dying Press Officer Mickey Charouneau at / 0207 479 7732/ 07725 433 025

Notes on the Poll
Populus interviewed 5,018 adults aged 18+ online between March 11th & 19th 2015. Interviews were conducted throughout Great Britain and the data weighted to be fully representative of all GB adults.
A 5,000 sample nationally representative poll carries a margin of error of +/- 1.4% at 95% confidence.

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill
The Assisted Dying Bill would legalise assistance to die for terminally ill, mentally competent people with a prognosis of 6 months or less under strict upfront safeguards.

The Bill was passed unopposed at Second Reading and secured a majority of support during its second day of Committee Stage when the Bill’s opponents moved an amendment to change the terminology of the Bill which was comprehensively defeated 106 – 179. A further amendment put forward which would restrict doctors who could consult with a patient was again defeated 61-119. Previously on the first day of Committee Peers had unanimously supported an amendment to introduce judicial oversight. The Bill has subsequently run out of time in this Parliament.

Dignity in Dying
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.