MSPs throw out assisted suicide bill


MSPs have easily defeated plans to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Scotland.

The end of life assistance (Scotland) bill would have allowed those “whose life has become intolerable”, and who met a series of conditions, to “legally access assistance to end their life”.

Those who were terminally-ill – or “permanently physically incapacitated” as a result of a progressive condition or “trauma” and “unable to live independently” – would have qualified for assistance to end their lives.

But members of the Scottish parliament rejected the bill, which had been proposed by the independent MSP Margo MacDonald, with only 16 voting in favour and 85 against.

A committee set up to consider the bill had already outlined a series of flaws in the legislation and decided that it could not recommend its “general principles” to MSPs.

Scottish disabled people’s organisations played a crucial part in convincing the committee to reject the bill, and in campaigning against legalisation.

In her speech, MacDonald attacked opponents of her bill, including the Care Not Killing alliance, which she accused of “heartless scaremongering”.

But Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP cabinet secretary for health and well-being, who voted against the bill, said she was “fundamentally concerned” about the difficulty of deciding whether someone who has chosen to end their life has been “subjected to undue influence”.

Michael McMahon, the Labour MSP and convenor of the cross-party groups on palliative care and disability, who also voted against the bill, said: “The development of palliative drugs is very expensive, and there is a danger that money would not be spent on such development if assisted dying became an option.

“The proposed new law is dangerous and unnecessary. Society needs to know that we cannot have both physician-assisted suicide and palliative care.”

Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP, who voted in favour of the bill, said: “For any person to take control at the end of their own life, on their own terms, may be regretted and grieved over and may be distressing and traumatic for other people, but I cannot see why it should be criminal, even if that person needs to ask for help from someone who is willing to give it in a context of care.”

But Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon, who voted against the bill, said: “How can a doctor, faced with an adamant patient, be sure that the patient is seeking to shorten their life because it is intolerable when there might be other reasons of greater influence?”

2 December 2010


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