Margo MacDonald bids to change law on aiding suicide

Share this article

MSP MARGO MacDonald today announced plans to bring a Member's Bill to the Scottish Parliament to change the law on assisted suicide.

The Independent Lothians MSP said it should not be a crime to help someone suffering from a condition who wanted to end their life.

She said she hoped to publish a consultation paper by the end of November and wanted to involve as wide a spectrum of people as possible in discussing the issue.

She said: "The politicians have run a mile from this, but they cannot continue to run. I'm not telling them what they have to believe, we all have our own values and beliefs, but they owe it to their constituents to debate the matter."

The detailed proposals in the Bill will depend on the responses to her consultation. But Ms MacDonald said the thrust was clear. "Where someone suffering from a condition makes their wishes known, that would be respected in law and no-one would be criminalised for helping."

A Bill on the right to die was introduced by Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis during the last session of the Scottish Parliament, but it failed to secure enough backing.

Ms MacDonald, who has Parkinson's disease, has said she wants the reassurance of knowing she can end her own life if she decides the condition has become intolerable.

She made a BBC documentary earlier this year called My Right To Die, and she claims a majority of Scots would back a change in the law so people with terminal illnesses could choose to die.

She said she had been moved by the case of former rugby player Dan James, 23, who was left paralysed in a training accident. His parents travelled with him to a Swiss clinic where he died last month.

Ms MacDonald said: "He took the decision he wanted to end his life. His parents respected his decision, with great sadness, and so went to Switzerland with him."

Her announcement follows a ruling by the High Court in London yesterday when a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis failed to secure a guarantee that her husband would not face prosecution if he took her to a Swiss clinic to end her life.

Debbie Purdy, 45, from Bradford, who can no longer walk and is gradually losing strength in her upper body, has said if her condition becomes unbearable she wants the option available, but she fears her husband, Cuban violinist Omar Puente, could face a jail sentence if he helps her.

At the moment, aiding or abetting a suicide is a crime punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

Ms Purdy took her case to court in a bid to clarify the law – but two High Court judges ruled existing guidelines were adequate.