MSP challenged over proposed assisted suicide Bill

By Neal Wallace
MacDonald rejected claims her Bill would place the vulnerable at risk

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald is facing claims that her proposed End of Life Assistance Bill (Scotland)  may result in around 1,000 deaths a year, far more than the 55 deaths originally claimed.

Nationalist committee member Michael Matheson is claiming that MacDonald’s proposals are closer to Dutch laws, not those in the US state of Oregon upon which the figures are originally based.

Matheson said: “Using the very same methodology that you’ve used to calculate the figures, the number of people who may exercise their rights under this legislation, if enacted, is closer to 1,000 rather than 55. That’s significantly different.”.

Dismissing these figures as groundless, MacDonald said: “The legislation will not change people’s morality – it will not change loving families into rapacious families.”

MacDonald pointed to improvements in palliative care, which eases the suffering of terminally ill patients. She also rejected claims that the Bill would place extra burden on GPs, noting that no doctor would have to take part if the Bill’s terms were against his or her “conscience or moral belief”. 

The controversial Bill has also prompted a campaign Care not Killing, who promote palliative care and oppose euthanasia.  They claim that a change in the law would benefit only a small minority, instead exposing many more vulnerable people to harm. Care not Killing comment “vulnerable people such as the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death”.

The Bill is also opposed by Labour’s Helen Eadie, who believes Scotland could see an influx of “suicide tourists”. Eadie claims: “We could see the development of specialist GPs or specialists who actually provide this particular service.”