A new survey has revealed that nearly nine in ten people in Scotland support the legalisation of assisted dying. Terminally ill people and those who have cared for their dying loved ones have backed the latest call from campaign group, Dignity in Dying Scotland. The poll, released last week, found that 87 per cent of Scots supported the right-to-die legislation - with medical approval and strict safeguards in place - for terminally ill people with less than six months to live. The survey of 1057 adults in Scotland was conducted by Populus between 11th and 24th March 2019 and showed that support was highest among The Herald readers.

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What is the assisted dying bill?
The End of Life Assistance Bill was first proposed to Holyrood by MSP Margo MacDonald, who lived with Parkinson's Disease, in 2010. It was defeated but she brought it back to the table in 2013, a year before she died.

The law that Dignity in Dying Scotland campaign for would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request life-ending medication from a doctor. Numerous safeguards are proposed, including two independent doctors confirming that the individual met all the necessary criteria and was making a clear and settled decision free of coercion. 

Any decision would have to be signed off by a High Court judge and the individual could rescind their request at any time, and are under no obligation to take the medication if it is eventually granted. 

The medication must be self-administered, so that the entire process is controlled by the individual – another important safeguard.

Why is it needed?
A third attempt at passing the bill in Scotland has been launched in response to changing public moods after high profile cases including Noel Conway who lost his legal challenge at the UK court of appeal in 2018. After his fight to die "peacefully and with dignity" was rejected, Mr Conway, who has motor neurone disease, called on politicians to change the law.

Mr Conway, from Shrewsbury, said: "It is downright cruel to continue to deny me and other terminally-ill people this right."
It is currently a criminal offence to assist a suicide and can hold a sentence of up to 14 years.

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What are people saying?
A group of cross-party MSPs have come out against the fresh call opposing politicians including Kezia Dugdale, Patrick Harvie and Jackson Carlaw in an open letter to The  Sunday Times newspaper.  Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser is one of the nine objectors along with Labour's Elaine Smith and the SNP's John Mason. They said that legalising assisted dying was"the measure of a desperately cold, soulless society. We think that in Scotland today we are better than that."

The National writes that Carlaw, Harvie, Dugdale and six other MSPs supported the call after 'careful thought and considered debate'.
They said: “The uncomfortable truth is that we are failing the people we met in Parliament this week. We cannot go on pretending the status quo is acceptable – it is not.”

Heather McQueen from Dalkeith whose mother died of cancer in 2017supports the new campaign. She said: “My mum’s name was Sheena. She was a school teacher. She was a wise, witty, strong woman. She had a really, really god life but she had a really bad death. 
“My mum had anal cancer. The last week was really, really horrific. She did receive palliative care in the hospital but it just couldn’t control her pain and we could do nothing but wait for her to die. The nurses would come round and ask if they could do anything for her and she would raise her two fingers to her temple, in the manner of a gun, to signify that the main thing they could do for her  would be to let her go. 
“Had assisted dying been legal, my mum would not have ended her life in that completely unnecessarily cruel way.”

Ally Thomson, Director of Dignity in Dying Scotland said: “What is clear from our polling and the reaction we’ve had to our campaign so far, is that the people of Scotland are firmly behind a change in the law to allow dying people a real say over their death. Scots evidently understand that terminally people and their families are suffering under the current system and they will not stand for it.

“At the heart of this campaign is love. The people I speak to who want the choice of an assisted death love their life. They don’t want to die, but they are terminally ill. They simply want the right to die as well as possible, and to live their life to the full, with those they love, right to the end; assisted dying would give them that. I’ve spoken to others who have lost beloved partners, parents or siblings and are haunted by memories of their traumatic, drawn-out deaths. These people were forced to look on, helpless, as those closest to them suffered. They are desperate to help ensure that no other family has to go through what they have."

What's next?
Dignity in Dying are asking supporters to sign an official online register for assisted dying at www.letsdotherightthing.org