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Right to Palliative Care Bill is welcome alternative to assisted suicide

Campaigners have welcomed a proposal for a Members Bill to give terminally ill people in Scotland a right to palliative care.

Miles Briggs MSP’s proposal would establish a legal right to palliative care for people of all ages living with terminal illness, and “ensure equitable access to the palliative support which is right for them, when and where they need it”.

In a consultation document, published today, Mr Briggs says:

“Scotland’s ageing population means that year on year, the number of deaths – and the number of people with palliative care needs – is set to increase. Now is the time, therefore, to make sure that palliative and end of life care provision is core to system design, planning, commissioning and delivery.

“Rapid improvements to palliative and end of life care support are needed to ensure a better end of life for all. As in England, this includes establishing a legal right to palliative care in Scotland. I am in no doubt that any new statutory duty will not resolve all challenges facing the palliative care sector in Scotland, but it can act as a positive step forward to help transform care, support, funding, and planning to cover people dying or approaching the end of their lives.”

The proposal comes ahead of the publication of a controversial ‘assisted dying’ bill that would give Scots with a terminal illness access to lethal medication.

Commenting on the right to palliative care proposal, a spokesman for the Better Way campaign – a group of experts who oppose ‘assisted dying’ – said:

“Palliative care is historically underfunded, and it is deeply wrong that vulnerable, dying people are not accessing the quality of care they so desperately need. MSPs in every party should consider supporting Mr Brigg’s proposal.

“Improving palliative care is wholly incompatible with ‘assisted dying’, which is opposed by the vast majority of palliative doctors in Scotland. When asked about this practice, end-of-life doctors warn that it would have a negative impact on palliative care services.

“They also warn of a negative impact on conversations with patients and families and say that proposed legal safeguards would not prevent harm to vulnerable patients under their care. A staggering number have also indicated that they’d leave the profession if the law changes.

“We would urge MSPs to row in behind a right to palliative care, and other measures that enhance end-of-life care, and vote against doctor assisted suicide. There is a better way forward for Scotland and high quality, accessible palliative care for all is part of it.”


Notes for editors:

Better Way is a non-political, not-for-profit campaign supported by experts in several fields. It was founded in 2021 to oppose assisted suicide and posit a better way forward, whilst providing a platform for marginalised voices.

Scottish palliative doctors survey: Microsoft Word – APM Survey of AD- Impact on PC FINAL 26Jan23 All comments incorporated (3) (


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