Margo MacDonald’s hope for assisted dying Bill

MSP Margo MacDonald has high hopes that her Bill will become law. Picture: Esme Allen
MSP Margo MacDonald has high hopes that her Bill will become law. Picture: Esme Allen
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MARGO MacDonald today launched her latest bid to legalise assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill and claimed there was a realistic prospect it could be passed.

The Independent Lothian MSP said there had been a shift in attitudes since her ­previous Bill was thrown out nearly three years ago.

And she said there had been significant changes to the ­proposals. The new Bill, co-sponsored by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, – would allow two groups of people – the ­terminally ill and people suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions that make life intolerable – to seek help to bring their lives to an end as peacefully and with as much dignity as possible.

Ms MacDonald said: “It’s an idea whose time has come.”

She said a key factor had been the widely-publicised case of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who died last year, just days after three High Court judges in England ruled they did not have the power to grant his request for a doctor to be allowed to give him a lethal dose of painkillers.

She said: “Opinion has moved on because people had to ask themselves very ­serious questions after they saw Tony Nicklinson on television. They were asking themselves ‘To what end is this man being made to suffer for longer then he needs – what purpose does it serve?’”

And she said she believed more MSPs were coming over to her view of the issue.

She said: “I’m encouraging people who support the Bill to contact their MSP because if MSPs are contacted by ­members of the public they will vote for the Bill.

“Some people think it’s daring and brave, but it’s just something that would allow a group of people a more ­peaceful end than nature would. It’s trying to ensure people don’t have to have a hellish end to their lives.”

Ms MacDonald said she had made major changes to her proposals since the last Bill, which failed to win enough support from MSPs in December 2010. In particular she said the “early warning system” should answer the concerns of those who feared people could be co-erced into asking for an assisted death.

Under this provision, anyone would be able to inform their GP of their support in principle for assisted dying and a note would be placed in the patient’s file. If and when the patient found life had become intolerable and fell into one of the categories specified they could formally ask their GP for the process for an assisted death to be started.

A second professional ­opinion would be required, then there would be a 14-day “cooling off” period before the patient had to make the request again.

The doctor would then write a prescription for the ­medication and withdraw from the process. It would be up to a trained “facilitator” or “friend at the end” to collect the ­prescription .

After death the facilitator would have to supply details of the death to the police. No crime would have been committed if all of the requirements had been met.