Leave assisted suicide to courts, peer tells MSPs

REQUESTS for assisted suicide should be decided by the courts if the process is to be legalised in Scotland, an independent peer has told MSPs.

Baroness Finlay said that with 96 per cent of doctors resisting the bill it wouldnt work. Picture: TSPL

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a professor of palliative medicine, said courts rather than doctors should adjudicate on eligibility as she highlighted a number of problems with the Assisted Suicide Bill.

The bill, which is being taken forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, would allow those with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to obtain help in ending their suffering.

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It is the second attempt to 
legalise assisted suicide in Scotland after the first was defeated at Holyrood in 2010.



Baroness Finlay was among a number of palliative care experts giving evidence on the proposed legislation at Holyrood’s health committee.

The bill would allow people aged 16 and over to place a formal request with their GP to end their life.

Any requests to GPs must be backed up by a second professional opinion and followed by a 14-day “cooling off” period.

A second request is then made, after which one of the doctors supplies a licensed facilitator with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place.

Baroness Finlay said: “You have attempted in this bill to take it out of medicine, which is a good thing to do, but by having medicine involved at all you have a fundamental problem.

“You have got 4 per cent of licensed palliative medicine doctors prepared to have anything to do with this, 96 per cent are not. With that resistance from doctors – which is resistance for good reason – it is not going to work.

“If you are serious about this, and you really want to have a system that might actually work, then you put the adjudication with the court actually deciding who is or is not to be provided [with assisted suicide] … and you get a court-appointed person and a court system.”