Gordon Ross, 66, a severely disabled grandfather currently living in a care home, is taking his case to the court today in order to clarify the legal position regarding his right to die.
He suffers from several serious medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and loss of sensation in his arms and legs. As such he is unable to walk, is confined to a wheelchair, and cannot feed or dress himself.
Mr Ross, a member of Friends At The End (Fate), which promotes knowledge about end-of-life choices, is calling upon the Lord Advocate to issue guidance to clarify whether any person who helps him end his life would be charged with an offence.
Such guidelines have been published in England by the Director of Public Prosecutions, but these do not apply to Scotland.
At present Mr Ross, a former TV producer and humanist celebrant, fears that should a time come when he has “had enough” he will not be capable of ending his life without help and that anyone who assists him may be charged with murder or manslaughter.
He said: “I believe that, as a disabled person, I am currently being discriminated against. Anyone else, in any circumstances, can choose to end their own lives at any time. Because of my disability that is something I am unable to do. I do not wish to end my life, I want it to go on as long as I can. However, if my condition deteriorates to the point that I do want to take that action, I want to know what action the law might take were someone to assist me.”
Mr Ross and his supporters hope to draw the same amount of attention to his cause as that surrounding Paul Lamb and Tony Nicklinson south of the Border.
Supreme Court justices in England ruled against Paul Lamb and the wife of Tony Nicklinson, Jane, by a seven-two majority in June last year.
Mr Lamb and Mrs Nicklinson, whose husband Tony died nearly two years ago, wanted the court to rule that disabled people should have the right to be helped to die with dignity.
However, despite their unsuccessful bid, Mr Lamb, from Leeds, and Mrs Nicklinson, both 58, said the conclusions reached and guidelines issued by the judges were a “positive” step in the fight for change.
Fate’s Bob Scott, who planned to demonstrate outside the court today in support of Mr Ross, said: “He has been very clear that he has no plans to end his life and is in no way suicidal. Gordon is severely disabled and needs help with the simplest of tasks most of us take for granted.
“He is seeking clarification of Scots law to learn if, should his circumstances deteriorate further, anyone who assisted him would face prosecution for helping him end his life.
“Gordon has the full support of his family and friends who, although they want him to live as long as possible, understand how life could become unbearable for him in the future.”
Mr Ross added: “The present legal situation actually encourages suicide amongst those with conditions such as mine and means people might choose to take their own life before they would otherwise want to because they know they won’t be able to in future. Ending life early in such circumstances is tragic and the law should not be putting up barriers to prevent people from living longer.”