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Margo MacDonald MSP’s Right To Die Bill Reconsidered

January 24, 2012

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald is to launch a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die.

Ms MacDonald’s previous End of Life Assistance Bill fell in a free vote at Holyrood just over a year ago.

The Lothians MSP, who has Parkinson’s disease, claimed there was wide public support for the legislation.

Her new consultation will clarify the extent to which a physician would be able to assist a patient.

It is not illegal to attempt suicide in Scotland but helping someone take their own life could lead to prosecution for culpable homicide.

Ms MacDonald’s bill would have allowed people whose lives became intolerable through a progressive degenerative condition, a trauma or terminal illness to seek a doctor’s help in dying.

It also proposed a series of safeguards which would prevent abuse of the legislation.

Public interest

Ms MacDonald said it was important to allow terminally ill people some dignity.

She said: “Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I’ve received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees.”

Last month, a group of experts said there was a “strong case” for allowing assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill in England and Wales.

The Commission on Assisted Dying – set up and funded by campaigners who want to see a change in the law – said the current system was “inadequate”.

It said it was possible to allow assisted dying within a strict set of rules to ensure it was not abused.

The commission, chaired by former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, said that, under their proposals, a terminally-ill person would need to be able to take the medication themselves, as a clear sign their actions were voluntary.

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