Opponents deal a blow to MacDonald's assisted suicide bill

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MARGO MacDonald's bid to introduce assisted suicide in Scotland has been dealt a blow, with the vast majority of people giving evidence to Holyrood on the issue declaring that they oppose her bill.

Analysis of the reaction generated by Ms MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill has revealed that 87 per cent of those who took time to produce written evidence were against it.

The Scottish Parliament's Information Centre (Spice) examined all evidence submitted and found an overwhelming majority against the legislation.

Of the 601 people and organisations who gave written evidence to the bill, only 6.5 per cent (39) were in favour of the legislation, aimed at giving a small number of terminally ill people who want to die, a peaceful and dignified death.

Forty-one of the respondents (6.8 per cent) had no position on the bill.

Medical experts accounted for 19.5 per cent of the submissions, and the vast majority of them opposed it.

Of the 117 GPs, 24 medical students, 11 experts in palliative care and assorted physicians, psychiatrists, paediatricians and palliative care experts, 110 were against the bill.

The strong body of opinion was last night welcomed by pro-life campaigners, who have orchestrated protests against the bill put forward by Ms MacDonald, who suffers from Parkinson's disease.

Gordon MacDonald, of the pressure group Care Not Killing, a coalition of pro-life activists, said: "We are very pleased there has been an overwhelming body of evidence against the bill."

Evidence provided by doctors rejected the proposal for a "registered medical practitioner" to have a key role in handling end of life requests.

For many doctors this went against the Hippocratic Oath that they swear before taking up their medical duties.

"Patients may look differently on the profession as a whole, given doctors take an oath to preserve life yet will at the same time have the powers in the bill," Spice's summary of the evidence noted.

Doctors had also made the point that patients might perceive that doctors were not acting in their best interests, while vulnerable patients might find themselves reluctant to disclose their fears and concerns to healthcare professionals.

Other organisations expressed fears that patients would "shop around" until they found a doctor willing to handle their request.

The Spice summary found another common theme among many of the bill's opponents, was a suggestion that there appeared to be an "acceptance" in Ms MacDonald's proposals that "the only dignified way of dealing with suffering was through ending life".

This was summed up in a contribution from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, which said: "Legalising euthanasia would mean that society would accept that some individuals can actually lose their inherent human dignity and have lives which no longer have any worth, meaning or value. It would give the message that human dignity is only based on subjective choices and decisions and whether a life meets certain quality standards."

Ms MacDonald said: "This doesn't surprise me. Nor does it discourage me.

"Much of this has been a result of an orchestrated campaign against my bill. I don't blame people for what they believe in, but if there was a properly weighted opinion poll in Scotland, the results would be the same as they have been in other opinion polls, that between two thirds and three quarters of people are in favour of legal assistance to die.

"I expect more a lot more people to get in touch with their MSPs in support of this as it goes through parliament."