Margo MacDonald among 20 MSPs backing new proposal to legalise assisted suicide

Margo MacDonald, MSP. Picture: Jane Barlow
Margo MacDonald, MSP. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A CONTROVERSIAL move to legalise assisted suicide for critically-ill Scots is to return to Holyrood after the proposal won the backing of nearly 20 MSPs.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald has lodged a fresh proposal to allow terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die, after a previous End of Life Assistance Bill was blocked by MSPs in a free vote at Holyrood.

Ms MacDonald has now secured the required 18 signatures of support to allow her latest attempt to change the law to go forward following a consultation earlier this year.

The Lothian MSP, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has set out key changes to her proposed shake-up in Scotland’s suicide laws, which would see Scottish Government ministers licensing individuals to collect medicine for sick friends and to stay with the patient until they had used the drugs prescribed by a GP to end their life.

She claimed that interest in the issue had grown since the death in England of Tony Nicklinson, the 58-year-old with locked-in syndrome who fought for years for the legal right to end his life and lost his High Court case the week before his death.

Ms MacDonald said: “Possibly due to the recent sad and shocking coverage of how Tony Nicklinson died, MSPs have a better awareness of the issue. I found more MSPs than last time considering giving support to my bill.”

SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn and Labour MSP John Park are among the politicians who have signed the bill, that would see Scotland become the first part of Britain to change the law, which currently leaves Scots open to prosecution for culpable homicide.

Mr Hepburn said: “This has been the most difficult issue I’ve had to grapple with during my time in the Scottish Parliament and I’m instinctively quite concerned about it. But people out there are saying to us that they want to have more control over ending their life and we have got to listen to that.”

Mr Park said: “I’m minded to support this as its goes through the various processes in parliament and also feel that as it’s a new parliament that there will be lots more MSPs who are open-minded on the issue.”

However, Tory MSP Alex Johnstone claimed that there were still “grave concerns” about legalising assisted suicide and he said he would vote against the bill, which is expected to be published early next year.

Mr Johnstone, who claimed that assisted suicide had been unsuccessful in other countries, said: “I don’t believe that good laws are made on the basis of individual cases. That’s not a sound way to make laws and it’s also not appropriate to legislate for suicide.”

Ms MacDonald said: “The consultation process has been successful in providing even more information about the reality of the end of life experience for a small, but fairly steady number of people, many of whom, according to their loved ones, would have chosen to end their lives rather than allow nature to do so in what they considered to be an intolerable condition.”