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Jane Nicklinson To Discuss Assisted Dying Law

October 31, 2012

The widow of campaigner Tony Nicklinson is expected to argue the case this week for making Scotland the first part of the UK to change the law on assisted suicide.

Jane Nicklinson is appearing at a conference in Edinburgh with veteran right-to-die supporter and politician Margo MacDonald, who has already tried and failed to make assisted suicide legal north of the border.

The conference, on Friday, will also hear from Ludwig Minelli, the founder of Swiss assisted dying organisation Dignitas.

Mr Nicklinson died in August days after his assisted dying campaign was turned down by the High Court in England. The 47-year-old, who refused food in the days following the landmark case, was paralysed by a stroke in 2005.

Ms MacDonald, an Independent MSP at Holyrood who has Parkinson’s disease, hopes to persuade the Scottish Parliament to back her revised legislation.

“This is a great panel of contributors which will help people to understand the issues,” she said. “People want their loved ones to live as long as possible but we have people where life is no longer good. You wouldn’t put an animal through the experience of some people.”

Other contributors at the conference are Sir Graeme Catto, chairman of Dignity in Dying and emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Aberdeen, and Dr Libby Wilson, convener and medical director of support group Friends at the End.

Ms MacDonald’s original attempt to change the law resulted in a free vote, with no party political obligation, among all MSPs at Holyrood, including government ministers. It was defeated 16-85 in December 2010. The End of Life Assistance Bill was considered by a specially convened committee which did not support the general principles.

Under the MSP’s revised plan, Scotland would change the law which currently leaves people open to prosecution for culpable homicide. Assisted suicide remains a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Among Ms MacDonald’s new proposals is a suggestion that a trained, “licensed facilitator”, a so-called “friend at the end”, would have to be present when someone is at the point of ending their own life. Such a measure is primarily aimed at making sure any fatal medication is taken correctly. A facilitator could be a doctor, social worker, or close friend but not a relative or anyone who stands to gain from the death.

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