Scottish end-of-life bill expected to be rejected

A controversial attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland is expected to be voted down by MSPs later today.

Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill would allow the terminally ill to seek assistance in ending their lives.

The controversial Bill has faced fierce and widespread opposition, and last month the Holyrood committee responsible for scrutinising the Bill said it wasn’t convinced that there was any need for a change in the law.


Assisted suicide is currently illegal in Scotland and anyone involved in assisting suicide may be charged with culpable homicide.

But Mrs MacDonald, the Independent Lothian MSP, wants to make Scotland the first part of the UK to legalise assisted suicide.

However, her controversial Bill is expected to be rejected by MSPs when they vote on the issue this evening.


In the event that the Bill is approved it would still face two more parliamentary votes, during which time it could be amended, before it could become law.

Last month the Holyrood committee responsible for examining Mrs MacDonald’s contentious Bill expressed doubt over the need to legalise assisted suicide.

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.”


In September Dr Tony Calland, Chair of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee, warned of the danger posed by the Bill.

He 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.”

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

In July a leading doctor warned that legalising assisted suicide would betray “Scottish values” for the benefit of a vocal few.


Dr Rosemary Barrett, Director of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, said: “The Bill is designed for people who believe their existence is ‘intolerable’.

“However, the truth is that Scotland offers excellent care for people suffering from extraordinary pain.

“Our palliative care services are capable of more than adequately managing physical pain.

“With such advanced medical services available, no person needs to experience ‘intolerable’ pain.”


In June over 14,000 people signed a petition against the end-of-life Bill. The petition was organized by campaign group Care Not Killing, an alliance composed of churches, bioethicists, medical groups and disability groups.

And in April, 16 palliative care specialists attacked the Bill in an open letter to The Times newspaper.

In the letter the medics warned that the Bill “sends a message to all disabled people and terminally ill patients that somehow because they are dependent on others they are of less value to our society and so may feel that they ought to choose to bring forward the time of their death.”

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