Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Assisted suicide law bid defeated

Margo MacDonald's bid over assisted suicide has failed

An attempt to make Scotland the first part of the UK to legalise assisted suicide has been defeated.

The controversial End of Life Assistance Bill was voted down by MSPs at Holyrood, despite claims that a majority of the public back such a move.

The legislation was put forward by veteran politician Margo MacDonald, a former Scottish National Party MP, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. Speakers in the emotive debate were not obliged to follow a party line on the issue.

Following the vote, she said: "The outcome wasn't any different from what I expected. A few people continued to say we shouldn't even debate it in this Parliament. That is what Parliament is for. Of course Parliament's will must be respected but Parliament's will can change. If I stand next time, if I am elected next time, people will know without any doubt I am going to pursue the idea."

Ms MacDonald, an Independent Lothians MSP, failed to secure the necessary support to pass the controversial legislation, losing in a 16-85 free vote.

The Bill had been considered by a specially-convened Holyrood committee, which did not support the general principles.

The legislation set out that anyone aged over 16 can request help to die. The person would have to be diagnosed as terminally ill and find life intolerable. A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.

Ms MacDonald used her last-ditch appeal to Parliament to launch a scathing attack on campaign group Care Not Killing - saying she wanted to get her "retaliation in first".

She said: "I'll cut to the chase and condemn as cheap and unworthy the contribution made by the publishers and authors of this catalogue of linguistic contortions headed Care Not Killing." She branded the campaign literature as "tacky", saying a challenge to provide proof to support their position had been avoided.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, praised Ms MacDonald for raising "such an important and sensitive issue". But she added: "It is not lawful to assist somebody to commit suicide and the Government has no plans to change the law."

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