THOUSANDS of people have called on Holyrood to permit loved ones to help people suffering from intolerable, incurable illnesses to end their own lives.
The My Life, My Death, My Choice campaign will today present a petition signed by 2,500 people urging MSPs to pass the Assisted Suicide Bill, conceived by late independent MSP Margo MacDonald. She died in April following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Green co-convener Patrick Harvie has pledged to take the bill forward, with the support of Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw, Labour MSP Mary Fee and SNP MSP Bill Kidd.
The petition presentation comes just before a deadline on Friday for submissions to a health and sport committee consultation on the bill.
The campaign was launched at the start of the year after a poll showed 69 per cent of Scots voters want the bill to become law.
Since then, campaigners have carried out an ongoing campaign and taken the debate to the four Scottish political party conferences where they secured wide support.
Campaign spokeswoman Sheila Duffy said: “The petition handover demonstrates the level of support for the bill. It has become increasingly clear that public support for a change in the law is at an all-time high and this issue is very much something that needs to be looked at closely.
“Over the last few months, we have spoken to people across Scotland – of all ages and ethnic backgrounds; from across the political spectrum; of different social and ethnic groups and of different religious beliefs.
“They have all told us the same thing: they want to have this choice should they ever find themselves in this intolerable position.”
Ms Duffy asked people who support the bill to visit the campaigns website (www.lifedeathchoice.org.uk) to pledge their support, sign the petition and contact their MSPs.
She added: “Even with the excellent palliative care available in Scotland, a small number of patients are unable to have their intolerable suffering relieved. We want to ensure people are provided with appropriate information to make their own choices and, in certain limited circumstances, given assistance to end their life.”
Ms MacDonald failed to get a previous assisted suicide bill through the last parliament, but was re-elected in 2011 on a mandate to resurrect the bill.
The Free Church has condemned plans to allow healthy 16-year-olds to make assisted suicide pledges fearing people with chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis “could be pressurised into assisted suicide”.
Rev Dr Donald MacDonald, a former surgeon who has MS, said plans for a “preliminary declaration” of intent for assisted suicides for 16 year olds, “opens the door to encouraging thoughts of suicide at a vulnerable age, as well as softening up society to accept suicide as an acceptable way out of problem situations”.