Dame Prue Leith backs bill to legalise assisted dying

Dame Prue Leith backs bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill Scots after death of her brother

  • Bake Off star was at Holyrood where she spoke about her sibling’s ‘horrific’ death

Dame Prue Leith last night told how she hopes Scotland will ‘lead the way’ in the UK by passing laws on assisted dying.

The Great British Bake Off judge was at Holyrood to give her backing to a Bill that would legalise assisted dying for terminally ill Scots.

The 83-year-old cook and food writer talked about her experience of watching her brother David’s ‘horrific’ death.

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur is behind the Members’ Bill which is being drafted and could be presented before the Scottish parliament next year.

Patron of Dignity in Dying, Dame Prue has campaigned for a change in the law after her elder brother suffered a ‘really horrible death’ more than a decade ago.

She urged MSPs to back the change, saying legislation could come forward in Scotland ‘before we manage anything in England’.

Dame Prue Leith spoke in support of Assisted Dying at the Scottish Parliament 

Prue as a child, with her brothers James and David, far left

Dame Prue urged politicians at Holyrood and Westminster to ‘take notice’ of Mr McArthur’s Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill, describing it as ‘really important’.

She added that the Bill has a ‘really good chance’, as unlike at Westminster it will have to come before MSPs for a vote.

Ahead of an event with Mr McArthur in Holyrood, Dame Prue said that ‘in Scotland there are over 75 per cent of the public in favour of a change in the law’. While MSPs have twice voted down attempts to legislate for assisted dying at Holyrood, Dame Prue said the ‘mood has changed’ post-Covid. ‘I think it is partly to do with people are thinking more about death,’ she said.

‘Covid made us think about death, a lot of people died during Covid and people began to think about their own deaths. Up to then as a nation we were very good at not thinking about death and, therefore, it was possible for ­governments to not devote enough money to palliative care and to not bring a Bill forward.’

She said although her brother had bone cancer, he ‘finally died of pneumonia because the only way he could kill himself was to stop taking antibiotics, which they gave him because he kept getting pneumonia’.

She added: ‘That meant he died a really horrible death because dying of pneumonia is like ­drowning. That was horrific.’

Dame Prue recalled how her brother was given morphine every four hours, but the pain relief only lasted for three hours. As a result, she said, he was ‘crying out, screaming, in absolute agony’ for hours each day.

Watching him suffer made her question why those who are dying are not able to die on their own terms, she said. Mr Leith died in 2012, aged 74.

The legislation being brought forward by Mr McArthur would give mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal condition the right to end their life. Safeguards would include independent assessments by two doctors.

Dame Prue said: ‘My own feeling is that I am 83, so I think about death quite a lot and I want to die in my own bed, with my family around, peacefully, not in pain.

‘Doctors spend their lives trying to make sure their patients have a pain-free, good life, then at the end suddenly they are not allowed to help.’

It is the fourth attempt to legalise assisted dying in Scotland, including a proposal by veteran MSP Margo MacDonald.

In 2015, MSPs voted against her assisted dying legislation after she had died the year before with ­Parkinson’s Disease.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, of anti-euthanasia campaigners Care Not Killing, said such proposals would put the vulnerable at risk of ‘abuse and coercion’.

He described the latest Bill as ‘dangerous and discriminatory’, and added: ‘Put simply, it’s ­impossible to have a safe system of ­medicalised killing.’

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