Disabled man issues plea for assisted suicide guidance

Sheila Duffy and other supporters make their point in Parliament Square before the court proceedings began yesterday. Picture: Greg Macvean
Sheila Duffy and other supporters make their point in Parliament Square before the court proceedings began yesterday. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A severely disabled grandfather has launched a fresh legal bid calling for guidance to be issued over assisted suicide in Scotland.

Gordon Ross, 66, who suffers from several serious medical conditions, is concerned about the future legal position regarding anyone who helps him end his life.

Mr Ross fears that should a time come when he has “had enough”, he will not be capable of ending his life without help and that anyone who does assist him may be charged with murder or culpable homicide.

He believes such discrimination, on account of his disability, is unfair.

Mr Ross, who lives in a Glasgow care home, wants Scotland’s top prosecutor, the Lord Advocate, to issue “sufficiently clear guidance” clarifying whether any person helping him would be charged with an offence.

Guidelines have been published by the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales, but they do not apply in Scotland.

Mr Ross brought his case for a judicial review to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in May seeking the Lord Advocate to set out guidance on what circumstances he would take into account in deciding whether to prosecute someone who helped another individual end their life. A judge, Lord Docherty, later dismissed the petition.

His appeal against the decision is now being heard by three judges at the same court.

Mr Ross’s legal team had argued that the Lord Advocate’s ‘’failure’’ to produce guidelines is incompatible with the disabled man’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lawyers for the Lord Advocate disputed the claims and said the policy was “crystal clear”.

Mr Ross suffers from conditions including Parkinson’s and the loss of sensation in hislimbs. He is unable to walk and cannot feed or dress himself, or attend to his personal needs.

The former television producer’s poor health meant he was unable to attend court but speaking before the hearing, he said: “I am utterly undaunted by the judgment at the Court of Session in September, in which Lord Doherty decided not to compel the Lord Advocate to publish guidelines regarding assisting someone to take their own life.

“I remain convinced that I am being unfairly discriminated against on account of my disability, which is why I am appealing against that decision.”

Supporters of his case held a demonstration in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square before court proceedings got under way.

Sheila Duffy, from Friends At The End, said: “Gordon has the full support of his family and friends who, although they want him to live as long as possible, understand how life could become unbearable for him in the future.”