Parliament is told to reject Margo's assisted death Bill
Margo MacDonald's bid to legalise assisted suicide should be thrown out by the Scottish Parliament, a committee of MSPs urged today.
The six-strong, cross-party committee appointed to examine the independent Lothians MSP's proposals decided by a majority of five to one that they could not recommend approval of the principles of her End of Life Assistance Bill.
But Ms MacDonald accused them of making their minds up before they heard the evidence.
The Bill would allow people whose lives had become intolerable because of terminal illness or a degenerative condition to ask for help to end their lives.
It included a number of safeguards, such as requiring registration with a medical practice for at least 18 months, a formal request to a doctor, a second opinion from a psychiatrist and then a 15-day cooling-off period before a second formal request and further discussion.
Ms MacDonald, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, has said she would like the reassurance of knowing she could decide when her life should end if it became unbearable.
Liberal Democrat MSP Ross Finnie, convener of the committee, said: "We have taken evidence on the Bill's proposals from a wide range of organisations, including medical practitioners, palliative care charities, religious groups and legal experts, based in the UK and overseas. Following detailed discussions on the evidence, we've concluded that there are several flaws in the Bill.
"Fundamentally, the committee wrestled with the Bill's premise that it would help maintain an individual's dignity and autonomy as they move towards the end of their life."
The committee report said an individual's feeling that life was "intolerable" did not stand up as an objective test.
It claimed there were also problems of definition with the proposed groups who would be eligible - those with "terminal illness" or "permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently".
It said arguing people should be allowed to die with "dignity" could be taken two ways. Some people saw assisted suicide as a means of preserving dignity, but others claimed a hastened death was undignified.
The report concluded: "Overall, the majority of the Committee was not persuaded that the case had been made to decriminalise the law of homicide as it applies to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia."
Lothians SNP MSP and former Wester Hailes GP Ian McKee was the only member of the committee to back the bill.
He said: "My experience is that there are some people who cannot be helped by the palliative care services.
"I felt in the case of someone who is in great misery and distress from their terminal illness, the autonomy of that person should be given greater priority than the needs of society."
Ms MacDonald said: "They went into it with closed minds and their report betrays that. As soon as we saw the composition of the committee I knew what to expect, but I did expect a better quality report."
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