Margo MacDonald takes heart from poll on right-to-die legislation

MARGO MacDonald today urged MSPs to heed the strength of public opinion behind her "right-to-die" bill when it is debated in Holyrood this Thursday after polls showed an approval rating of 77 per cent.

The independent Lothians MSP, who has Parkinson's disease, is championing the End of Life Assistance Bill which would allow people whose lives had become intolerable because of terminal illness or a degenerative condition to ask for help to end their lives.

A VisionCritical poll of 1001 Scots was announced today revealing that 77 per cent of those questioned on the matter were in favour of some form of euthanasia for the terminally ill. Only 12 per cent were against with 11 per cent undecided.

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Ms MacDonald said she hoped MSPs would recognise the groundswell of support for her bill, which is at an early stage of legislation, and allow it to progress. She also criticised an opposition group Care Not Killing for "distorting" details of the bill.

"I'm not surprised by the public support for it," she said. "I know from the letters I have received at my office and what people have told me when I've been out and about that there was backing for it.

"I sincerely hope the strength of public opinion will persuade MSPs that the right thing for them to do is to allow it to progress to the next stage where every clause of the bill is minutely examined."

Asked about the overwhelmingly numbers in favour of the bill, Ms MacDonald said: "The results are in line with every other poll that's been carried out (on the issue] but I have to say that my pleasure at seeing the bill enjoying public support is somewhat tempered by the frustration of knowing that some MSPs have allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by a well organised and orchestrated campaign against the bill by Care Not Killing (CNK).

"This organisation is perfectly entitled to campaign against the bill but it really has no right - God given or otherwise - to distort the actual provisions of the bill as a means of covering up CNK's basic objection which is derived from the religious and moral beliefs of the people running the campaign."

CNK policy officer Gordon Macdonald said opinion polls were not a "reliable guide" on the issue because those asked were not giving an informed view but rather an answer "off the top of their heads".

On Thursday, a six-strong cross-party committee invited MSPs to throw out the bid to legalise assisted suicide after it concluded there were "several flaws" in the bill.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".