Scots judges reject plea for assisted suicide guidance

RIGHT-TO-DIE campaigners say they have suffered a 'slap in the face' after judges in Scotland's highest court rejected a posthumous appeal by a disabled grandfather to clarify the law on assisted suicide.

Supporters of 66 year-old disabled grandfather Gordon Ross gathered in Edinburgh's Parliament Square in May 2015 as the Court of Session rejected his petition. Image: Ian Rutherford

Gordon Ross had spent the final months of his life fighting for a legal ruling on the powderkeg issue before he died in hospital last month from ­Parkinson’s related illnesses. He was 67.

Judges yesterday refused an appeal from Mr Ross calling for Scotland’s top prosecutor, Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate, to clarify the criminal law in relation to assisted suicide. The three judges, led by Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway, the Lord President, ruled there was no need for fresh guidance.

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“The criminal law in relation to assisted suicide in Scotland is clear,” Lord Carloway stated.

“If a person does something which he knows will cause the death of another person, he will be guilty of homicide if his act is the immediate and direct cause of the person’s death.”

It could mean that the person helping a terminally-ill loved one to die is charged with murder or culpable homicide depending on the nature of the act.

MSPs at Holyrood last year rejected new laws to introduce assisted suicide in Scotland for the second time in the past decade.

Bob Scott of Friends At The End (Fate), which campaigns for a change in the law, said: “Although Gordon died last month, his family, as wells as his friends at Fate and the Humanist Society Scotland, had hoped that the appeal court judges would overturn the previous decision by the Court of Session and compel the Lord Advocate to issue detailed guidance on the law around assisted dying, as exists in England.

“This is a real slap in the face for those who wish to have a choice at the end of their lives and particularly to Gordon, who fought long and hard to have the guidelines clarified.”

But the ruling was welcomed by the Care Not Killing Scotland campaign, which opposes assisted suicide.

Convener Gordon MacDonald said: “We were always of the view that the law relating to assisted suicide in Scotland is clear. It is not for the courts to change the law on sensitive matters such as this.”