Proposed Assisted Suicide Bill Scotland

Margo MacDonald MSP laid down a proposal for a Bill on assisted suicide on 23 January 2012, the proposal is subject to public consultation, which is open until 30 April 2012.  

Detailed legislation will only be produced if/when the consultation is concluded and the proposal receives sufficient support from MSPs.

Together for Short Lives believes it should respond to this current consultation, and in our draft response, we have attempted to inform decision makers and to clarify and draw out issues relating to young people - this proposal would only apply to young people aged over the age of 16 years.

The proposal is for new legislation to permit assisted suicide in Scotland. According to the proposal, to qualify for assistance a person must:

•    Have mental capacity to make an informed decision (using the definitions in the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2001)
•    Be registered with a medical practice in Scotland
•    Be aged over 16
•    Have either a "terminal illness" or a "terminal condition"
•    Find their life intolerable.

A person wanting assistance to end their life must make a declaration using a standardised format witnessed by two people, with a provision for a process of pre-registration. After making a "declaration" the person can make a written request for assisted suicide to a doctor who must also refer the request to a second doctor.

Following confirmation of the validity of the second request "the person's doctor" writes a prescription for lethal medication. There is a time limit of 28 days from the second written request within which the assisted suicide must take place.

The proposal also describes the role of the licensed facilitator, who must be present at the death. The proposal envisages that the facilitators would be employed by established voluntary organisations in the field, who would also train, vet and license them. The proposal indicates that professionals with ethical objections to involvement in the process need not participate.

We would welcome your comments on our draft response by 20 April 2012. Please email any comments to katrina.mcnamara@togetherforshortlives.org.uk

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