Tag Archives: Margo MacDonald

Assisted suicide bill – license to heal or license to kill?

By Sandra Juncu

The assisted suicide bill is facing new challenges as claims were made that numbers could reach 1,000 deaths in Scotland per year.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald appeared in front of a Holyrood committee set up to revise her controversial bill that is allowing people suffering from a terminal illness to seek medical help in ending their life. She based her law proposal on the example of the U.S. State of Oregon’s existing regulations and approximated the number of Scottish cases to  55 per year.

The MSP is convinced of the importance of her Bill

Former SNP colleague, Michael Matheson openly criticized her intention by commenting “Your legislation is much closer in parallel to Dutch legislation and 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 1000 rather than 55. That’s significantly different.”

MacDonald, who suffers from degenerative Parkinson’s condition, has expressed concerns as she is claimming that an “organized campaign” against her has been trying to scrutinize her plans and take attention away from the fact that the law has plenty of safeguards to prevent abuse: “We mean for everyone to understand completely that this is not something to be entered into lightly. If there were more than 100 a year of people who find their lives intolerable and who followed the bill faithfully, I would have no objection to that.”

Although the MSP is confident on a majority of  bill supporters in Scotland, the international situation does not seem as favourable. The Netherlands have published a report saying that the number of assisted deaths and euthanasia cases have risen by 200 last year and different international organisations are expressing concern related to the fact that this legislation will give people the false idea that not every life is worth living.

One of the big opponents of the “Right to die” movement is the Catholic Church, as the Archbishop Rev. Vincent Nichols said: “It seems to imply that if the victim is disabled or terminally ill, then his or her life does not merit the same degree of protection by law. Such an underlying assumption is unacceptable in a civilised and caring society.”

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.”

Proposal for Euthanasia Bill


Due to a sufficient number of Government backers in May, Independent  MSP Margo MacDonald is to present a bill next month proposing a change in the law regarding voluntary euthanasia ( or ” assisted suicide” )  for the terminally ill in Scotland.

telegraph.co.uk margo
image courtesy of the telegraph

In a recent Sunday Times poll, 68% of those asked believed the law should be changed to allow voluntary euthanasia in Scotland, and a similar poll in March by STV showed 75% supported the idea.

There are currently only a small number of places where the law allows assisted suicide, including Oregon, Washington, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Due to this over 100 British terminally ill patients have ended their lives at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland. 

This implies that Scotland – and indeed the UK as a whole – is somewhat “behind-the-times”, something that Ms MacDonald – who suffers from Parkinsons disease – has a personal interest in. She stated, ” Every opinion poll that is carried out of public opinion shows a clear majority in favour of this measure, the most recent being in the Sunday Times (as quoted above) where two thirds of those questioned supported the idea of the Bill.”

Despite the seemingly strong support for a change in Scottish law regarding voluntary euthanasia, there are still many organizations which oppose it, namely the Church of Scotland, which is very clear on it’s stance regarding the situation, “The Church of Scotland is opposed to all forms of euthanasia. Doctor-assisted dying may currently be seen as one option for the terminally ill, but we are concerned that it may come be regarded as a duty in the future. The situation must never arise where the terminally ill or the very elderly feel pressurized by society to end their lives.”

image courtesy of ironmill

Many Christians also believe that because suicide is seen as a sin, “assisted suicide” is no better. Many critics describe the “slippery slope” issue, by which euthanasia would become involuntary, for example when doctors need beds in hospitals that are taken up by coma patients, or if people want to decide for their elderly relative what is best for their own personal gain. These are perhaps extreme arguments,but also valid ones. If a person is terminally ill and also elderly, dementia and mental health also come into consideration – what if a patient is depressed? Would this be an exception to the rule if they are not in control over their own well-being?

When questioned on the “slippery slope” arguement, Ms.MacDonald said, “The bill that will be published in due course will make it absoloutely clear as to who would be eligible and under what circumstances. The Bill will also make it very clear that there is a specific process that would have to be followed by the medical professionals involved in the care of the patient, and if at the end of the process there is any suggestion that the process has not been carried out in accordance with the provisions within the Bill, then the medical professionals involved could be charged with unlawful killing.”

The website  www.euthanasia.com disgarees. The reasons this website gives in support of voluntary euthanasia are unbearable pain, the right to commit suicide,and people should not be forced to stay alive. These are all valid arguments and ones many terminally ill patients will relate to and agree with.

Many people obviously agree with the idea to change the law in Scotland, and of course many are against it,yet if Margo MacDonald manages to have the bill put through,it’s unlikely the debate is going to end.

A triangular roundabout?

By Elizabeth Gorrie

Over £220,000 of taxpayers’ money is being spent on a triangular roundabout to be built outside the Scottish Parliament in an effort to prevent a terrorist attack on the building.

The  ’roundabout’ will be built at the entrance of the Parliament’s underground car park in Holyrood Road, reaching a height of one metre.

According to a Parliament source: “The function of the chicane is to put an obstacle in front of the building. The idea is to make it impossible for someone to drive down Holyrood Road at high speed and crash the gates”.

Despite spending £90 million bomb proofing the Parliament when construction of the building began in 1999, MI5 revealed two years ago that there were not enough measures to protect it from an attack.

Plans for a ring of steel and concrete around Holyrood were announced one month ago after The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure advised that it would be unable to withstand a suicide bomb attack.

However, many MSPs, including Margo MacDonald are unsure if this is the correct way to be spending taxpayers’ money.

“How many of these kinds of incidents have there been? If it was a regular occurrence I would be prepared to take their word for it that this is a necessary precaution. But if it’s only a ‘what if’ I think we could find better use for the money”.

Yet perhaps MacDonald ought to look at what else the taxpayers’ money is being used for before being too critical of the roundabout. This year alone £100,000 has been provided to improve the exhibition in the Parliament’s foyer and to buy new aerials, which are to enhance mobile phone reception in the building.

It was revealed by the Edinburgh Evening News last year that a new swipe-card system in the car park worth over £250,ooo had broken down. All traffic lights were left on red and guards were needed to manually wave cars through.

The roundabout and other security improvements are already underway, it is however uncertain when work will be completed.