Doctors back assisted suicide bill

A group of doctors including a surgeon and a professor of neurology have spoken out in support of legalising assisted suicide.

Loading Comments

The 11 medical experts are backing a Bill proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald which would change the law in Scotland.

The Bill will complement the "excellent" palliative care currently on offer in Scotland, not undermine it, they said in a letter.

One of the signatories, ear, nose and throat surgeon Gillian MacDougall, said more GPs support the proposed legislation but fear being labelled "Dr Death".

The letter, published in the Herald newspaper, reads: "We believe the safeguards designed to protect the vulnerable are comprehensive and rigorous, with doctors being the best professionals to assess for any concerns regarding coercion.

"We are also reassured a doctor cannot be compelled to participate in the process, should they not wish to do so.

"As doctors, we support the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill."

The Bill is the second attempt to change the law by Ms MacDonald, who has Parkinson's disease. A previous attempt was voted down by MSPs in 2010.

Under the proposed legislation, only those who are terminally ill or who are suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions which make life intolerable will be able to seek assisted suicide.

Any requests to GPs must be backed up by a second professional opinion and followed by a 14-day ''cooling-off'' period.

This process is then repeated again with a second request, after which one of the doctors concerned would supply a licensed facilitator with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place.

This facilitator, or ''friend at the end'', has no relationship with the patient and is given the task of collecting the prescription and agreeing the process of assisted suicide, including whether the person wishes to say goodbye to their family and friends.

If the prescription is not used within 14 days, it must be returned to the chemist.

When she launched the Bill in November, the Lothian MSP said she believed it could be successful this time, stating: ''I have sensed from the beginning that there was a change because of the volume of support that we can demonstrate.''

Dr MacDougall told the Herald: "It is really hard in the medical profession to stand up and say you support this as a practising doctor. I think there is a fear of being labelled Dr Death and fear of any political repercussions."

Another signatory, emeritus professor of medical neurology at Edinburgh University Charles Warlow, said: "I think it is part of one's doctoring responsibility to help someone at the end of life.

"I know many people do that with the double effect of morphine. It is all secretive and it should not be."

Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.


Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email
A weekly round up of social highlights

A weekly round up of social highlights

Cat's Eyes on Glasgow

Chilling in Glasgow's first Ice Bar and getting Mhor than I bargained for




Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Columnist Michelle McManus is Sussed in the City, and loves to chat about anything and everything.

Games news:

Putting the world to rights

Gail's Gab

My thoughts after Police Scotland are ordered to apologise over IRA interrogation techniques slur.

Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You couldn’t make up half the stuff that happens to PA Janice Bell- some of the jams she gets herself into are worth a story or two.