Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

Will Scotland become the first part of the UK to legalise assisted dying?

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 01 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2012
  1. Bryan Christie, journalist
  1. Edinburgh
  1. bryan.christie{at}

Public support and new members of parliament in Holyrood give fresh hope that a new bill could succeed where previous attempts have failed, reports Bryan Christie

What legislation is being proposed?

A proposed bill is being brought forward by the Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur in the Scottish parliament to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option of medically assisted dying. It is supported by a cross party group of 12 other MSPs, who said in an open letter, “The [present] law does not work and should be replaced with a safe and compassionate new law that gives dying people the rights they need to have a good death. It is incumbent upon us to provide a solution.”1

The bill is expected to require terminally ill people who wish to end their life to sign a declaration in the presence of two independent witnesses. The declaration would have to be approved by two doctors who are satisfied that the patient is terminally ill, has the capacity to make such a decision, and has done so voluntarily. A 14 day period may be built into the bill to give time for reconsideration after medical approval is given.

What is different now?

Two previous attempts in the Scottish parliament to introduce assisted dying have been defeated, by 85-16 …

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