Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s First Minister, has firmly reiterated his opposition to proposed assisted dying legislation following discussions with disability campaigners. Yousaf expressed deep concerns that individuals with disabilities could be disproportionately affected if these proposals become law.
A cross-party group of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), led by Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur, is advocating for a bill that would permit terminally ill adults to request assistance in ending their lives. While similar initiatives have previously faltered, proponents are increasingly optimistic about the prospects of this legislation’s success.
Yousaf had previously maintained an open-minded stance on the issue, but after a recent meeting with representatives of the Glasgow Disability Alliance, his position has solidified. He expressed his worries that those with disabilities could become the “thin end of the wedge” concerning assisted dying, especially in light of their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including concerns about Do Not Resuscitate notices.
In an interview with the Record, Yousaf stated, “The discussion still has a ways to go. There is a lot of supporting evidence. There are many different viewpoints to consider, and I hope that the discussion that does ensue, regardless of how people feel about it, is conducted with genuine sensitivity and respect.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar echoed Yousaf’s concerns about the potential impact on people with disabilities, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding in any legislation. Sarwar noted that he is willing to listen to the debate but remains unpersuaded.
Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, on the other hand, indicated in April that she is “more open” to assisted dying legislation than in the past. She acknowledged the emotional weight of the issue and expressed her intent to arrive at a clear position before any parliamentary vote.
A poll commissioned by Dignity in Dying Scotland, a pro-assisted dying organization, revealed that 86% of the public believes the Scottish Parliament should examine the issue, with over three-quarters favoring this within two years.
Liam McArthur, the bill’s proponent, emphasized the need for strict safeguards and high-quality end-of-life care in his proposal. He cited substantial public support, with 78% in favor during a public consultation, and stressed the urgency of addressing the shortcomings of the current system.
McArthur stated, “As a nation, we can and must do better, and offer people greater choice at the end of life.”
The debate surrounding assisted dying in Scotland continues to evolve, with diverse perspectives and strong convictions shaping the discourse. The ultimate outcome will have far-reaching implications for the rights and choices of terminally ill individuals and those with disabilities.