LAST week, LibDem MSP Liam McArthur published his private member’s bill seeking in certain, tightly defined circumstances to legalise assisted dying.

The bill aims to allow someone, aged 16 or over, who is terminally ill with a condition they won’t recover from, and which is expected to cause premature death, to obtain the consent of two doctors to be provided with assistance to end their own life. Both doctors need to be satisfied that a person is acting voluntarily, without being coerced or pressured.

I have rarely been as conflicted on any issue as I am on this. On previous occasions when the matter has come before Parliament, I have voted against. I have been determined, this time, to consider the issue afresh, and to consider all the different arguments with an open mind. Liam is to be commended for the thorough and sensitive way in which he is giving Parliament the opportunity to do so.

I had expected this time, if I am being frank, to find myself swaying in favour of the legislation. I believe that we all deserve as much agency as possible over our own lives and, in theory at least, I understand the argument that this must entail, in some circumstances, the right to decide when to end our lives.

Also, like most, I am deeply moved by accounts of terminally ill people, living in severe pain and distress, who wish to die with dignity and in peace, at a time of their own choosing. I have asked myself, time and again, what I would want in these circumstances but in truth, I don’t know. Can any of us answer this question properly in the abstract, before and until we find ourselves in the situation? And, even if I wouldn’t choose it, does that justify me voting against the right of others to do so?

All these arguments have force. And yet so far, despite my expectations, the more deeply I think about the different issues involved, the more I find myself veering away from a vote in favour, not towards it.

I worry that even with the best of intentions and the most carefully worded legislation, it will be impossible to properly guarantee that no-one at the end of their life will feel a degree of pressure, a sense that it might be better for others for them not be here – even if their loved ones try to persuade them otherwise.

And, even more, fundamentally, I worry about the thin end of the wedge. That if we normalise assisted dying – if we come to associate dignity at the end of life with choosing to die, rather than being supported to live in as much peace and comfort as possible – then we will, as a society, lose focus on the palliative and end-of-life care and support that is necessary to help people, even in the worst of circumstances, to live with dignity. And I worry that, over time, this shift in collective mindset will see the tightly drawn provisions of this bill extended much further.

These, then, are the issues that, like all MSPs, I am wrestling with. Notwithstanding the above, I remain determined to consider every argument carefully before reaching a final decision. Any constituent who wishes to share views with me, for, against or undecided, should contact my constituency office.