Assisted suicides may be filmed as safeguard

A NEW bill that would allow legally assisted suicide in Scotland will be launched at Holyrood today by the independent MSP Margo MacDonald.

Margo MacDonald has made amendments to her bill. Picture: Robert Perry

It is Ms MacDonald’s second attempt to change the law after a previous bill was blocked in a free vote during the last parliament.

The Lothians MSP has set out key changes to her proposed shake-up in Scotland’s suicide laws, which would see government ministers licensing individuals to collect medicine for sick friends and to stay with the patient until they had used the drugs prescribed by a GP to end their life.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The prospect of assisted suicide being filmed to prove it was carried out by patients themselves has also been raised,

Yesterday Ms MacDonald, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, told The Scotsman that her revised proposals included safeguards to ensure that patients were not being “leaned on” to agree to assisted suicide.

Another element of the bill would allow patients who had been diagnosed with a degenerative illness to make an “early registration of intention” with their GP about assisted suicide before their condition deteriorates.

Ms MacDonald said: “Their declared intention could be forgotten about and never activated, but it’s so there’s less concern about people being leaned on.

“They would still have to go through a full procedure later on of deciding about this, but it’s so that people can say how this was always their intention if they later became very ill.”

The MSP said she was “very hopeful” the that her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill would become law due to growing support for reform on the issue.

Ms MacDonald says interest in the issue had grown since the death of Tony Nicklinson, the 58-year-old with locked-in syndrome who fought for years for the legal right to end his life and lost his High Court case the week before his death.

Although those signing up to the scheme would be forbidden from administering the medicine, Ms MacDonald’s plans would allow them to help someone wanting to take their own life and enable the person to take the medication correctly.

The helper’s role would also involve reporting the death to the police, but could mean that the suicide would have to be filmed to prove that it had been carried out by the patient themselves.

Ms MacDonald insisted that terminally ill patients would be able to change their mind at any stage and that no-one benefiting from the person’s will would be allowed to be involved in the process.

She said: “Two medics would have to give permission and the patient could change their mind at any time. The facilitator could not be someone whose in the will or a family member.

“There could be an early registration of intention with a doctor, where someone has a degenerative illness for example so that no-one can say a person is being leaned on if they later decide to go through this.

Ms MacDonald will be encouraging voters to lobby MSPs over the bill when it goes through the parliamentary process.