I WOULD encounter my mum in the mornings, the garden light behind making her a shadowy outline at the dinner table, still and stricken.

Osteoporosis – her bones crumbling within her, making every movement feel like a passage through whirring blades.

I don’t believe or pray, but I often did pray that some of her titanic pain could be transferred to me.

Just so that her will to live an ordinary, domestic, elderly life wasn’t being thwarted, at every nerve-shredding turn.

She’d sometimes suddenly (and violently) thump the table with her fist: “I wish God would just take me now!” The last time mum waved her fist at me was after her stroke. At her bedside, I gently suggested how her care set-up would now need to be increased.

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“Give me peace, you!” she hissed out of the working side of her mouth, as fiercely autonomous as ever. She succumbed, half a day later. I often fancy she shut herself down, rather than suffer the ignominy of a former midwife being nursed by three clumsy sons.

Would my mother, a devout, pro-life Catholic, have availed herself of the right to assisted dying, as proposed by the current bill now starting its progress through the Scottish Parliament? Maybe not for herself.

But as someone who was wired to give palliation to pain as it arose – whether the sufferer had Aids, cancer, whatever – I’d like to think she would grant the LibDem MSP Liam McArthur’s proposed law some consideration.

Like many in the late noughties, I had watched the moving presentations on right-to-die that Margo MacDonald had made in the Holyrood chambers. The bombshell of all bombshells, losing control of her body from advancing Parkinson’s – yet razor-sharp in her mind and words – was poignant to encounter.

If you knew her, it would be utterly consistent that Margo would be an advocate for an individual’s power to determine the circumstances of their death, as much as they should determine their life. Her bill, taken up after her death by the Scottish GreensPatrick Harvie, fell well short of a majority.

We can begin to assess whether McArthur’s bill will pass by comparing it to Margo’s proposals. She certainly cast the net wide.

As a BBC report from 2010 notes, it was aimed to cover those “whose lives become intolerable through a progressive degenerative condition, a trauma or terminal illness to seek a doctor’s help in dying … the person must be terminally ill or permanently physically incapacitated.”

The current assisted dying bill draws a tighter focus than that. It follows the first of what seem to be two main global frameworks for assisted dying. The “terminal-illness” model, followed by New Zealand, Australia and some US states, specifies that only those diagnosed as terminally ill are eligible.

The “permissive” model, at work in Canada, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, requires a lesser criteria of “intolerable suffering”.

Switzerland is a real outlier, having legally enabled forms of assisted suicide since 1941. I was surprised to discover that the death of my favourite film director, Jean-Luc Godard, was assisted under Swiss law, where he was resident.

“Jean-Luc was not sick, he was simply exhausted,” said a family member at the time. “So he had made the decision to end it. It was his decision and it was important for him that it be known.” Godard’s lawyer Patrick Jeanneret said that Godard had “multiple disabling pathologies”, leading him to this act.

Godard represents the radical, existential end of the right-to-die discussion: I judge the quality of my life (and the impact of that life on others) to be so poor that I have the right to end it, if I see fit.

The National: Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur during a media event at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, after publishing his Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill. If passed, the bill will allow people living in Scotland with a

McArthur's bill is surrounded with safeguards against this strong voluntarism, and is nested in circles of medical care. Firstly, you have to be resident for 12 months in Scotland, as well as having a terminal illness. This should militate against short-hop “suicide tourism” (as Dignitas in Switzerland is often accused of facilitating).

Then two doctors have to confirm your “mental capacity” for understanding your choice and its consequences. You get two weeks to mull over your decision. Then the lethal medication must be “self-administered”. This presents another safeguard against any lack of deep consideration. Research has shown that self-administration (usually taken orally) tends to inhibit the act itself.

The Oxford bioethicist David A Jones studied “permissive” jurisdictions, where there was an option either way.

He writes: “In 2019, out of 5631 ‘medically assisted deaths’ in Canada, only seven were self-administered. Out of 2655 euthanasia or assisted suicide deaths officially reported in Belgium, in only eight cases was the lethal dose taken orally.”

Another safeguard McArthur seems to have built in is that assisted dying is part of a wider sweep of palliative care – meaning a range of strategies for coping with increasing pain and discomfort at the end of life. Knowing that the option is there turns out to be a comfort for many as they pace out their final journey, and is often not taken.

As McArthur said to our sister paper, The Herald, earlier this month: “Overwhelmingly, the motivation of those accessing assisted death is the desire to remain in control, to not continue to live in circumstances where pain isn’t managed or there’s loss of dignity, agency and independence – all the things that make life worth living.”

Overall, it seems that McArthur’s bill has dealt with many of the more lurid objections. Securing it to terminal illness means that the spectre of families hustling elderly and infirm patients to an early death, for all manner of sordid reasons (property, inconvenience), becomes minimised. This is about how an already certified exit is self-managed – nothing beyond that.

For me? It’s how I’d like to go. And certainly so, if I was facing an advancing wall of pain that would degrade my consciousness, derange my relations with loved ones, make the precious hours and days of my life less miraculous than they could otherwise be.

AS a damned atheist-materialist, I do smile wryly at religious people who object to such laws. Folks, at least you have an active belief in an afterlife – a zone in which your soul, spirit or awareness persists for eternity. We meat machines stare at the abyss of death with total horror.

It’s like that final arbitrary edit in the closing scene of The Sopranos, where Tony Soprano just blips to blackness as he’s tucking into his onion rings with the family. Whether at the end of a goomba’s bullet, or the last puff of morphine, we seculars know (and fear) how final the lights-out are.

It’s why I keep an eye on longevity research. This always threatens to cause its own revolution, where life years could be doubled (or more) if cell degeneration is prevented. If the Scottish Parliament is still exercising its jurisdiction when that new epoch opens up, I hope it exercises the same sagacity around right-to-longevity as it seems to be doing towards right-to-die.

Sometimes national parliaments are the best place for debates beyond political economy or geopolitics. It’s as much an empowerment to see these elemental human issues dealt with by legislation, as it is to determine how resources or forces are managed.

I can certainly summon up the image of my disputatious mum getting stuck into this debate, even at her table of pain.

Still not sure where May would land with this one.