An alliance of groups opposed to assisted suicide looks set to challenge a legal bid by a 65-year-old man in Scotland who is calling for the law to be weakened.
Care Not Killing (CNK), a UK-wide alliance opposed to any changes to the law on assisted suicide, maintains that “the current law exists to protect the vulnerable”.
The legal action to weaken the law is being launched by Gordon Ross from Glasgow who has Parkinson’s disease.
Ross believes his disability will increasingly prevent him from taking his own life in the future so he is seeking clarification on the legality of assisted suicide in Scotland.
“I obviously don’t want someone else to end up in jail for helping me”, he said.
The CNK alliance includes faith groups, healthcare providers, and disability and human rights groups.
A CNK spokesman said the group had made “well-received” contributions in a number of similar high-profile cases in England in the last few years – such as the case of locked-in syndrome patient Tony Nicklinson, who asked the court to grant that any doctor helping to end his life would be free from prosecution.
The spokesman said: “These contributions have consistently reaffirmed the simple truth that the current law exists to protect the vulnerable and those without a voice: disabled people, terminally ill people and elderly people, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives.”
“With regard to the possibility of proceedings being taken in the Scottish courts”, he added, “we remain open to pursuing our stated aims of opposing unethical, uncontrollable and unnecessary legal change in favour of proper and dignified care through a variety of channels”.
In 2010 Keir Starmer QC, who was Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales at the time, unveiled new guidelines outlining when people are likely to be prosecuted for assisting a suicide.
The guidelines for England and Wales indicated that those who were “wholly motivated by compassion” were unlikely to face prosecution.
Responding to the guidelines at the time, CNK Campaign Director Dr Peter Saunders criticised the new rules, warning: “Anyone who takes part in an assisted suicide is going to claim they were acting out of compassion. The only witness who really knows will be dead.”
In Scotland no such guidelines have been produced.
In December a retired surgeon who has multiple sclerosis spoke out against a new Bill introduced by MSP Margo MacDonald, to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.
Professor Donald MacDonald said: “The current laws exist to protect the vulnerable and should not be changed.”
He warned that the qualifying conditions for assisted suicide under the Bill were “so vaguely defined that they seem fairly elastic”.