BMA says assisted dying ‘alien’ concept for medics

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THE doctors’ trade union has come out against Margo MacDonald’s latest bid to legalise assisted suicide, despite changes designed to minimise medics’ involvement.

The Independent Lothian MSP has proposed that trained and licensed “facilitators” should be available to assist in the final stage of the person who wishes to die – but GPs would still be expected to write a prescription for the medication.

Margo MacDonald wants assisted suicide to be allowed in Scotland. Picture:  Esme Allen

Margo MacDonald wants assisted suicide to be allowed in Scotland. Picture: Esme Allen

Dr Lewis Morrison, of the British Medical Association’s Scottish council, said: “Under these new proposals, doctors will still play a role in ­assessing, verifying and ­prescribing the fatal dose, if not administering it, and therefore will be taking on a role that effectively allows them to help kill a patient.

“If doctors are authorised, by law, to kill or help kill they are taking on an additional role which we believe is alien to the one of care-giver and healer.

“The traditional doctor-patient relationship is founded on trust and this risks being impaired if the doctor’s role encompasses any form of intentional killing.”

But Ms MacDonald, who unveiled her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill yesterday, said views among GPs ­varied and the Royal College of GPs in Scotland had decided to remain neutral on the issue after surveying its 4000 ­members and finding opinion polarised.

A retired GP, Dr Bob Scott, spoke at the launch of the Bill, saying the proposals were “an enlightened response to an unmet need”.

He said: “It is certain that unreported and unregulated assistance to die is being given by doctors in this country.

“This Bill brings clarity to a complex matter, it tells doctors in Scotland what can properly and legally be done to help patients and crucially it puts individuals in charge of their own destiny.”

The Rev Scott McKenna, minister of Edinburgh’s Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church, told the launch he supported the Bill:“It is an attempt to alleviate human ­suffering and ensure dignity for the dying. It is an attempt to bring peace of mind to some who face the prospect of a ­terrible death.”

Mr McKenna said palliative care professionals did good work but could not control all pain. He said: “To deny people suffering a humane death when they want it is an ­injustice. Letting people go on suffering when we have the means to stop it compassionately is immoral.”

But the Church of Scotland showed strong opposition to Ms MacDonald’s Bill. It said: “The Church affirms again opposition to legislation which seeks to bring about the deliberate ending of life.”