Assisted suicide campaigner says Scots can lead the way
THE widow of right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson has said plans to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland could push other parts of the UK to follow suit.
Jane Nicklinson appeared at a conference in Edinburgh yesterday to publicise a fresh attempt to legislate at the Scottish Parliament.
“People that are in support of changing the law in England might see that if this can happen in Scotland, why can’t it happen here, too? It can only be a good thing,” she said.
She was among a panel of contributors, including Ludwig Minelli, founder of the Swiss assisted-dying organisation Dignitas, as well as Dutch supporters, and medical and religious representatives.
Mr Nicklinson died in August, days after he lost his High Court battle in England for the right to end his life. The 47-year-old, who refused food following the landmark case, was paralysed by a stroke in 2005.
The attempt to change the law in Scotland is being made by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, whose first attempt failed in a free vote in 2010.
She hopes to persuade the re-elected SNP government and previous opponents to change their minds and get behind revised legislation, due to be formally lodged next spring.
Mrs Nicklinson, 57, from Melksham in Wiltshire, said her campaign was hard.
“The day we went to the court, it was the day Canada legalised it and we hoped that might have some effect on our case, which plainly it didn’t,” she said. “The more countries do legalise it, in time England will have to follow on.
“You can feel very alone. For a long time we did because no-one was willingly supporting us.”
Ms MacDonald, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, said she had been “too nice” in the first attempt to steer a bill through parliament.
“It was too close to an election and we were too nice in the way we conducted the campaign,” she said. “We didn’t want it to become a rough-and-tumble political campaign. This time it’s going to be different.”
Her second bill has been consulted on, with responses showing a split of opinion. Interpretation of “substantive” responses indicated 59 per cent support for her plan. Overall responses, which include a letter-writing campaign opposing the plan, show support at 33 per cent.
Mr Minelli told the conference that Scots should not have to travel to Switzerland to end their lives. He estimates 289,000 people attempt to take their lives in the UK each year.
But although the Swiss clinic helped people to die, he said many more chose a way that helped them to live.
The Rev Scott McKenna, a Church of Scotland minister in Edinburgh, said: “I hope that compassion will triumph over religious dogma and the decision to die be seen not as suicide or life-defeating, but as life-enhancing and an act of immense faith.”
Among Ms MacDonald’s new proposals is a suggestion that a trained, “licensed facilitator” – a so-called “friend at the end” – would have to be present when someone is at the point of ending their own life.
A facilitator could be a doctor, social worker or close friend, but not a relative or anyone who stands to gain from the death.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East