A dialogue on dying: examining assisted death in Scotland

There have been several attempts to legalise assisted dying across the UK. Prior to the current Members’ Bill proposed by Liam McArthur MSP, there have been three separate efforts in Scotland alone over the last few decades. The most recent public consultation in 2022 received more than 14,000 responses from 81 organisations and many individuals, illustrating how this issue continues to elicit strong opinions in either direction. With the recent introduction of the Bill, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) believes the time is right to revisit the topic of assisted dying in a sensitive, impartial, and non-partisan way.

Applying its evidence-based approach and independence, the RSE will host a chaired public panel discussion on assisted dying, incorporating views from speakers on both sides of the issue. This event will provide a neutral space to have an informed debate on the topic, bringing various legal, ethical, medical, and religious perspectives into the conversation.

The discussion intends to grapple with the arguments around assisted dying, as well as the barriers and opportunities to changing the law. By doing so, the event will provide balanced, evidenced information for MSPs who will be legislating for any change in the law and encourage the public to join the conversation, perhaps even re-examining their own views in the process.


A man looking at the camera


Kenny Farquharson

Columnist and senior writer, The Times

Kenny Farquharson is a columnist with The Times and publisher of a Substack called The Jaggy Thistle. Career highs include being embedded with Scottish troops in Afghanistan and reporting on Barack Obama’s presidential election campaign. A seasoned political commentator, he was the first convenor of the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association. As a newspaper editor, he helmed Scotland on Sundays and was the deputy editor of The Scotsman. He is an Orwell Fellow, having been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. In the Scottish Press Awards, he has won Political Journalist of the Year, columnist of the Year and Interviewer of the Year.

A person posing for the camera


Professor Scott Murray FRSE

Emeritus Professor of Primary Palliative Care, University of Edinburgh

Professor Murray is a recently retired General Practitioner who, 15 years ago, created a new research and teaching unit within the department of General Practice at Edinburgh University. Its aim is to help people with life-threatening illnesses access personalised supportive care from diagnosis of any progressive illness. He has published widely in the BMJ, Lancet and specialist journals, highlighting that when death taps people on the shoulder, they greatly appreciate an opportunity to talk and think ahead. He is a public advocate for “early palliative care” internationally. His research recently resulted in progressive new Scottish legislation now being rolled out to enable patients and carers to get earlier support to help them live and die well with any progressive illness.


Dr Margaret McCartney FRSE

Senior Lecturer, University of St Andrews

Dr Margaret McCartney is a practising GP, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of St Andrews, and Senior Associate at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford. She is an experienced, prize-winning writer, author and broadcaster and has been PPA columnist of the year. Her research interests include policy-making, risk communication, screening, conflicts of interest, bias, and evidence communication. She is also a Director of Beira’s Place, and her full DOI is available here.

Danica Patrick smiling for the camera


Dr Kirsten Woolley

GP Craigmillar Medical Practice and Professional Advisor to Scottish Government on practitioner (health and social care) wellbeing

Dr Kirsten Woolley is a GP in Craigmillar, working with patients who form part of the 15% most deprived in Scotland. She has an additional role offering advice to the health workforce directorate in the Scottish Government and supporting the delivery of mental health support to health and care workforces in Scotland.

A man in a blue suit


Revd Dr Scott S McKenna

Parish Minister

Revd Dr Scott S McKenna has been a parish minister in the Church of Scotland for thirty years, with parishes in Uddingston, Edinburgh, and Ayr. In that time, he has represented the church internationally, and spoken at numerous public engagements. He has experience in industrial chaplaincy, mental health, and school chaplaincies. While serving as a full-time minister, he has gained three additional university degrees: MTh, MPhil, and PhD. He has a keen interest in biblical interpretation, mysticism, the relation of religion and science, and interfaith work. He has also contributed to religious broadcasting on BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4.

More Information

This event may contain some distressing content involving surrounding assisted dying. Should you need any support regarding this subject, please use the following links:

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Tuesday May 21st, 2024 18:00-19:30


The Royal Society of Edinburgh





Dr Kirsten Woolley
Revd Dr Scott S McKenna