Assisted Suicide Scotland Bill rejected by MSPs
MSPs have rejected the Assisted Suicide Scotland Bill following a debate at Holyrood.
The Bill, which was rejected by 82 votes to 36, would have allowed people suffering with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to seek assistance in ending their life.
The late independent MSP, Margo MacDonald originally introduced the idea of the Assisted Suicide Bill on 13th November 2013. She died on 4th April last year at the age of 70, following a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Green MSP, Patrick Harvie continued to fight for the Bill, noting that he gave a commitment to Ms MacDonald and told her he would present the Bill to parliament in the best way he could.
The Scottish government didn’t support a change in law but MSPs were given a free “conscience” vote with which they quashed the proposed Bill.
Holyrood’s Health Committee raised a number of concerns regarding the proposal; these concerns included the omission of defining assisted suicide and the lack of clarity regarding methods used by those wishing to end their life.
During the debate, Scottish Health Secretary, Shona Robison expressed the government’s belief that the current law is clear. “It is not lawful to assist someone to commit suicide, and the government has no plans to change that”, she said.
Following the debate Mr Harvie stated that the legislation wasn’t good enough to convince MSPs but it had increased awareness of the issue.
“Clearly the detail of this Bill just wasn’t good enough to convince Parliament but I think it’s clearly awoken more people to the problems with the current law”, Mr Harvie said.
He spoke of the lack of support for the estimated 50 people a year who are terminally ill and commit suicide in Scotland. In opposition to Ms Robison’s comments, Mr Harvie also pointed out the “real lack of clarity” in the current law.
“It’s very clearly a step forward for the argument, not just an increased show of support amongst MSPs but I think a much clearer case has been made during the scrutiny of the Bill that the current law as it stands is unclear”, he said.
Mr Harvie explained that he felt the argument for some change in the law would continue.
“We’re currently seeing a legal challenge against the Scottish Government in terms of what the current law even means. There’s a real lack of clarity and I think the case for some kind of change will continue”, he said.
Labour MSP, Richard Simpson raised his concerns regarding palliative care in Scotland, which he said was “wholly inadequate”. Mr Simpson put forward his view that palliative care in Scotland should be the issue being raised rather than assisted suicide.
The National Director of CARE for Scotland, Dr Stuart Weir spoke of Scotland’s proud history of helping the most vulnerable. “We should be helping people to live, not trying to facilitate premature death”, he said.