Leave assisted suicide to courts, peer tells MSPs

Baroness Finlay said that with 96 per cent of doctors resisting 'the bill it wouldn't work. Picture: TSPL
Baroness Finlay said that with 96 per cent of doctors resisting 'the bill it wouldn't work. Picture: TSPL
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REQUESTS for assisted suicide should be decided by the courts if the process is to be legalised in Scotland, an independent peer has told MSPs.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a professor of palliative medicine, said courts rather than doctors should adjudicate on eligibility as she highlighted a number of problems with the Assisted Suicide Bill.

The bill, which is being taken forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, would allow those with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to obtain help in ending their suffering.

It is the second attempt to 
legalise assisted suicide in Scotland after the first was defeated at Holyrood in 2010.

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Baroness Finlay was among a number of palliative care experts giving evidence on the proposed legislation at Holyrood’s health committee.

The bill would allow people aged 16 and over to place a formal request with their GP to end their life.

Any requests to GPs must be backed up by a second professional opinion and followed by a 14-day “cooling off” period.

A second request is then made, after which one of the doctors supplies a licensed facilitator with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place.

Baroness Finlay said: “You have attempted in this bill to take it out of medicine, which is a good thing to do, but by having medicine involved at all you have a fundamental problem.

“You have got 4 per cent of licensed palliative medicine doctors prepared to have anything to do with this, 96 per cent are not. With that resistance from doctors – which is resistance for good reason – it is not going to work.

“If you are serious about this, and you really want to have a system that might actually work, then you put the adjudication with the court actually deciding who is or is not to be provided [with assisted suicide] … and you get a court-appointed person and a court system.”

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