Proposals are being developed in both Westminster and Holyrood to allow assisted dying for people who are terminally ill, if they request it.
These proposals will be based on legislation in Oregon, which restricts access to people who are expected to die within six months (by contrast with the more permissive legislation in e.g. the Netherlands, where it is open to patients enduring ‘unbearable suffering’ even if their illness is not terminal).
Some people in Scotland and England & Wales oppose legalization because of fears about the effects that assisted dying laws might have on people with disabilities. This policy briefing, written by Professor Ben Colburn, Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, identifies several arguments of this kind and summarises the relevant evidence and academic research.
It concludes that assisted dying laws should not be opposed on the basis of the views, welfare, respect or healthcare of people with disabilities. Instead, respect for disabled people’s autonomy gives some reason to legalize assisted dying, at least for people expected to die within six months.
Ethics, autonomy and end of life is a focus of ongoing research for Professor Colburn.