Plans in Scotland to legalise assisted suicide are confusing and unclear, a group of independent lawyers has warned.
In a written submission to a Holyrood committee, the Faculty of Advocates, which states that it neither supports nor opposes assisted suicide, raised concerns about the broad nature of the proposals.
The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill allows patients to end their lives even if they are not terminally ill.
“Many conditions are life-shortening, including common conditions such as type II diabetes and hepatitis.
“The Faculty questions whether it is the intention of the proponents of the Bill that such common conditions should justify assisted suicide.”
The group also expressed doubts about the nature of the “licensed facilitator”, or ‘friend at the end’, which is included in the proposals.
This facilitator, aged 16 or over, would be able to help the person who wishes to commit suicide by, for example, collecting lethal drugs.
The submission said: “The Faculty questions whether it is appropriate that such a role should be performed by a person as young as 16 years of age, and particularly so if they have no relevant qualifications to allow them to perform that role.”
The group also warned that the Bill does not clearly define what constitutes “assisting a person to commit suicide”.
It said that the Bill includes little guidance as to what “assistance” comprises.
“Does it include prescribing or dispensing drugs to the person who wishes to commit suicide? Does it include preparing the means whereby the person can ingest such drugs? Does it cover the actions of the licensed facilitator?”
The body also said it may be “desirable” for the Bill to contain a conscience clause for those who do not wish to take part in an assisted suicide.
The group claimed that people seeking to assist another person to commit suicide may, in fact, end up being prosecuted because the Bill is unclear and not easily understood.
The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill is being taken forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.