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Sort out assisted dying now 76% of Scots tell Scottish Parliament as New Zealand votes for change

A poll commissioned by Dignity in Dying Scotland, Friends at the End and Humanist Society Scotland shows that more than three quarters of Scots (76%) want the Scottish Parliament to debate assisted dying after the Parliamentary elections in May.

Additionally two thirds (66%) wish to see a commitment to introducing assisted dying in the political parties election manifestos.

The poll comes as preliminary results from New Zealand’s assisted dying referendum, the world’s first nation-wide vote on the topic show that New Zealanders have voted overwhelmingly (65.2%) in favour of legalising assisted dying. New Zealand’s Parliament passed the End of Life Choice Act in 2019, and it will now become law in a years’ time. Today’s result means that in New Zealand terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months of life can request assistance from a medical professional to end their life at a time and place of their choosing.

Ally Thomson, Director of Dignity in Dying Scotland, said:

“Today’s poll with overwhelming support for the Scottish Parliament to get on with introducing a safe and compassionate assisted dying bill alongside with the introduction of new laws in New Zealand makes it clear that assisted dying is the next urgent rights based reform for Scotland. We have excellent palliative and end of life care, yet every week, 11 Scots will die a bad death, in unbearable pain and suffering.

As more countries legislate for assisted dying we ask that Scots politicians join them in showing leadership on delivering the rights that our dying citizens so desperately need. Scots are asking for their political parties to make commitments in their manifestos and for their MSPs to take action in Parliament. For dying people and their loved ones throughout the country this is not just an election issue – it is the reality of their lives and deaths and they are looking to the Scottish Parliament to deliver.”

Amanda Ward, CEO, FATE said:

“It has been five years since Margo MacDonald introduced a Bill to legalise assisted dying in the Scottish Parliament – a move she was described as ‘brave’ for. It transpires that she was in fact a pioneer, with over 150 million people worldwide now having access to assisted dying. MSPs should harbour this increasing momentum, reassured that the public is behind them and change the law. At a time when our mortality is being confronted daily, Scots are not shying away from the end of life, but instead want their MSPs to show leadership and give them the rights and choices that they deserve.”

Fraser Sutherland, CEO, Humanist Society Scotland said:

“It’s clear from these most recent results that the Scottish public expect Parliament to give dying people an individual choice on their care after the elections in May. While other issues may dominate political parties and commentators, assisted dying remains a key priority of the wider population.

“The cruel fact remains that individuals are continued to be denied choices at the end of their life in Scotland. Yet those rich enough and well enough are able to access such options by travelling abroad at great personal expense. This must change.”


Notes to Editors

  • For further information, including interviews and polling tables contact: Ally Thomson Director, Dignity in Dying Scotland – 077391735304, Amanda Ward, CEO, FATE – 07889207425, Fraser Sutherland, CEO, HSS – 07477692109.
  • Dignity in Dying Scotland, FATE and Humanist Society Scotland are campaigning for terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have the right to an assisted death.
  • The organisations commissioned polling from YouGov as part of the report. All polling figures, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,042 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th and 13th October 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Scotland (aged 18+). YouGov is registered with the Information Commissioner and is a member of the British Polling Council.
  • New Zealand’s Parliament passed the End of Life Choice Act in 2019, and it will become law in a years’ time now that the public have approved it by referendum.. It will enable terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months of life to request assistance from a medical professional to end their life at a time and place of their choosing .
  • The Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, backed ‘yes’ vote. Current New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Arden also voted in support of the Bill as it went through Parliament.
  • The New Zealand vote comes as the Dying with Dignity Bill in Ireland moves a step closer to becoming law. Members of Ireland’s Dáil voted to progress it to committee stage, meaning it will now undergo pre-legislative scrutiny by one of the select committees.
  • On Wednesday 7 October 2020 TDs in Ireland’s Dáil voted 81 to 71 to allow the Dying with Dignity 2020 Bill to proceed to committee stage for pre-legislative scrutiny. An amendment tabled by the coalition government to establish a new special Oireachtas committee to examine the issue and report back in a year’s time was defeated.
  • Earlier this month the British Medical Association released the results of its membership survey on assisted dying – the largest ever poll of British doctors on the issue. It found overwhelming support for a change to the BMA’s current stance of opposition to an assisted dying law (61%), and half of doctors personally supporting a change in the law (50%). The BMA’s current position is due to de debated at their next Annual Representative Meeting in 2021.