‘Momentum is building’ on assisted suicide Bill

Green MSP Patrick Harvie. Picture: John Devlin

Green MSP Patrick Harvie. Picture: John Devlin

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SUPPORTERS of the assisted suicide Bill originally introduced by late Independent ­Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald say they are optimistic it will pass its first hurdle at Holyrood tomorrow.

The Scottish Parliament is being asked to back the principle of the law change, allowing people who are terminally ill or suffer from degenerative conditions to seek help to end their lives.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who took over handling of the Bill after Ms MacDonald’s death last year, said: “The one thing that has become abundantly clear is that the law as it stands is appallingly unclear and the case for some kind of change is almost irresistible.

“Whether or not members feel this Bill has every detail right, I’m hoping they will allow it to proceed so we can carry on and debate the detail and make amendments as appropriate.”

Polls have shown up to 78 per cent of the public is in favour of legalising assisted suicide.

A previous Bill proposed by Ms MacDonald was rejected by MSPs by 85 votes to 16 in 2010.

But Mr Harvie said: “Margo took account of many of the ­arguments raised against the previous Bill when she redrafted the proposals and came up with this one.”

Retired GP Bob Scott, spokesman for campaign group My Life, My Death, My Choice, said he was “implacably optimistic” about the Bill’s prospects.

He said: “I’m hopeful that the majority of MSPs will vote in favour.

“Anyone who has followed the debate over the past 18 months since Margo launched the Bill could not fail to be 
influenced by the momentum building in favour.”

He said he accepted there was room for improvement in the details of the Bill, but said “that can only happen if it gets through stage one”.

In its report on the Bill, Holyrood’s health committee noted “unacceptable” lack of clarity in some of the language used and said that it would require “significant amendment” should it progress.

Spiritual leaders of Scotland’s 80,000-strong Muslim community have written to MSPs urging them to vote against the Bill.

The Council of Imams Scotland said: “Life is a divine gift and trust that cannot be terminated by any form of active or passive voluntary intervention by the patient, physician or family members.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com