This evening, MSPs will vote on whether the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill should have further parliamentary discussion and scrutiny. Not to make its contents law but to give greater consideration to the proposals. The last time a similar Bill reached this stage at Holyrood, 16 MSPs supported it, 85 voted against and two abstained. I’m hoping that the numbers are vastly different come Decision Time and the Bill progresses.
From what I have read about the Bill, including the Health and Sport Committee’s Stage 1 Report, it needs improving. The Committee felt there were areas that needed better defining and that the proposed legislation was, in part, flawed. However, the Parly has the opportunity to address these issues, which its proposer – Green MSP Patrick Harvie – has said he would happily do. Even then, after incorporating the Stage 2 amendments, MSPs can still seek to improve and strengthen the Bill before deciding it should or should not become law.
This is not an opportunity we as a country should pass up. We all deserve the chance to have a decent quality of life. Sadly, while palliative care has improved greatly in my lifetime in its ability to keep us living longer, the quality of that increased time has not. I have seen this for myself and have spent far too much time in oncology departments to think otherwise. The last weekend my father was with us proves this point. He was a man who loved music, he thoroughly enjoyed the stuff and would often take a turn and sing songs at family events. That weekend he couldn’t even face listening to some of his favourite music; it was all too much effort for him. I tried to persuade him otherwise, wanting to bring some joy to his day but he became annoyed and crabbit, so I left it. I feel the same way about music as Pa did and I NEVER want to reach the stage where listening to it is painful or hard work. I don’t say this lightly but I would rather die than no longer appreciate a good tune. That wasn’t Pa’s choice but his final days have influenced my views on how we care for our own when their condition is incurable and further discomfort, pain and suffering is all that is left to them
Currently, we show more humanity to animals in this country than we do to our dying loved ones. We give people extra pillows and more comfortable beds, pump them full of drugs to mask the pain and others to keep their failing system ticking over. Why? To all things there is a season, everything eventually comes to an end and an acceptance of that helps define us as human and humane.
I don’t know if this Bill has the right means or opportunity to improve the quality of life for those with life-shortening or terminal conditions who have decided that enough is enough. However, I hope my MSPs vote for the opportunity to further consider it and make an informed choice on the proposals. Surely we all deserve not just the chance to live our lives as we see fit but also the chance to end our lives as we see fit?
Our MSPs have just voted. Sadly, the Bill will not proceed after only 36 MSPs voted for it while 82 voted against. There were no abstentions. While support for continued deliberation on the issue has more than doubled, I sadly think that people voted the wrong way. I am very disappointed that Scotland’s parliamentarians have missed out on the opportunity to start thinking about the future and further help the country enter the Twenty-first Century.