Scotland to Consider Legalizing Assisted Suicide
Minister of Scottish Parliament Margo MacDonald won cross-party support for presenting a bill to legalize assisted suicide before the Scottish parliament in fall. MacDonald has Parkinson's disease and has announced that she would like the right to die if she so chooses.
People with a progressive and irreversible illness, the terminally ill, or those who had an "intolerable" quality of life, could get a doctor's help to kill themselves under the proposed law.
MacDonald's efforts significantly impact Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, 46, from Bradford, who demanded to know if her husband, Omar Puente, would be persecuted for accompanying her to Swiss clinic Dignitas where she wants to die if her condition gets worse, according to The Guardian.
Ordering the director of public prosecutions to issue a policy setting out when those in Puente's position can expect to face prosecution, the court ruled that the current lack of clarity is a violation of the right to a private and family life.
Even before MacDonald and Purdy's efforts to legalize assisted suicide, British authorities have not punished those who have sought such relief. Since 2002 an average of 2 people a month have traveled out of Britain seeking help to die. Despite numerous investigations, no family members have been prosecuted.
MacDonald's bill was formally supported by 21 MSPs from various parties, 3 more than the 18 signatories required to present a bill.The rise in the number of Britons going to Switzerland for assisted death and repeated opinion polls convinced MSPs that presenting such a bill to the parliament might well represent public opinion.
Unlike in England, the law on assisted suicide in Scotland is ambiguous. It is not specifically outlawed, but the issue has not yet been tested by the police or the courts.
The proposed legislation will require anyone who wants assisted suicide to sign a legal declaration while still mentally fit, a form of "living will". If the patient later opts for suicide, their mental state will then have to be assessed in a psychiatric examination to ensure they are not simply suffering from depression, MacDonald said.