Assisted suicide bill fails to persuade Holyrood committee

An attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland has failed to gain the endorsement of a Scottish Parliament committee.

The committee concluded that it was “not convinced” the law needed changing and said it could not recommend the Bill when it comes before MSPs for a crucial vote next week.

Doctors’ leaders and campaigners have united to urge MSPs to reject the controversial proposals in the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Independent MSP Margo MacDonald.


The committee’s stage one report, based on written and oral evidence, said it did not recommend the general principles of the Bill to the Scottish Parliament.

In its report, the committee said: “Overall, the majority was not persuaded the case had been made to decriminalise the law of homicide as it applies to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, termed ‘end-of-life assistance’ in the Bill.”

Committee convener Ross Finnie said: “In the last few months, we have taken evidence on the Bill’s proposals from a wide range of organisations including medical practitioners, palliative care charities, religious groups and legal experts based in the UK and overseas.


“Following detailed discussions on the evidence, we’ve concluded that there are several flaws in the Bill.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland welcomed the committee’s decision and urged MSPs to vote against the Bill next week.

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland said: “I am pleased that the committee has made a recommendation not to progress this Bill.”


He added: “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.”

Gordon MacDonald, of Care Not Killing, which handed in 10,000 postcards to Holyrood opposing the Bill, said: “This report could not be more emphatic in its rejection of the End of Life Assistance Bill.

“It’s a real victory for the most vulnerable in our society. It’s hugely encouraging that the committee recognise that a key way of preserving dignity in the terminal stages of life lies in the quality of care available and the respect afforded to the dying.”


In September the Chair of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee, warned that there will be “no going back” if assisted suicide is legalised in Scotland.

Dr Tony Calland cautioned: “Once you’ve crossed the rubicon of changing the law to allow premeditated hastening of the death of another person, you can never go back.”

He said that if legislation allowing assisted suicide was passed it would inevitably “creep” into other areas.

Related Resources