Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill

1st June, 2015

Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill

Last week, a majority of members of the Scottish Parliament voted against the Bill to legalise assisted suicide.

As an MSP for over fifteen years, there are very few issues that I can think of that have evoked such strength of feeling.

The huge number of emails that have flooded into my inbox over the last few months regarding the subject will testify to this.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contacted me with their personal and heartfelt accounts of caring for a seriously ill loved one.

Prior to the debate last week, the health committee which I convene examined the Bill in great detail and reached the conclusion that it contained some significant flaws.

While we acknowledged that a desire to be compassionate towards those suffering is a key factor that motivates the Bill there were a number of areas that gave cause for concern.

My colleague Bob Doris who spoke on behalf of the committee during the debate noted the concerns from witnesses about the potential for coercion of vulnerable people.

The committee also acknowledged concerns about the lack of definitions in the Bill. Surprisingly, there was no definition of assisted suicide.

Moreover, the terms “terminal” and “life shortening” appear in the Bill.  As Bob Doris said in his speech, these terms are absolutely central in delineating the range of persons who would receive assistance in ending their lives, yet neither was defined.

It is in part for these reasons that I said no to the Bill. In voting no, I also took on board the views of those who say the answer is not to legalise assisted suicide but to do more to improve end-of-life care which as it stands is wholly inadequate.

Tomorrow the committee will begin its investigation into the quality of palliative and end of life care.