Thursday November 18, 2010

Scottish euthanasia bill rejected overwhelmingly by committee

By Hilary White

EDINBURGH, November 18, 2010 ( – A bill that proposed to legalize assisted suicide in Scotland has been rejected by a committee of cross-party Scottish parliamentarians. A five-to-one majority of the committee said Wednesday that they could not recommend approval of the principles of the bill.

Liberal Democrat MSP Ross Finnie, convener of the committee, said, “Fundamentally, the committee wrestled with the bill’s premise that it would help maintain an individual’s dignity and autonomy as they move towards the end of their life.”

“Overall, the majority of the committee was not persuaded that the case had been made to decriminalise the law of homicide as it applies to assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, termed ‘end-of-life assistance’ in the bill,” Finnie said.

Joseph Lee, the development officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Scotland, told that the decision is “great news for vulnerable people of Scotland.”

Lee said, “This is the fourth time that some form of right-to-die proposals have surfaced in the Scottish Parliament and we can no doubt expect more, but the Scottish pro-life movement has been buoyed by this victory and are ready to fight against any other attempts that may be forthcoming.”

MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) Margo MacDonald launched the End of Life Assistance bill in January this year that proposed to allow physicians to provide patients with lethal drugs for self-administration. Its provisions would have allowed anyone over the age of 16, whether suffering from a life-threatening illness or not, to ask a physician for assisted suicide.

Anyone diagnosed as terminally ill or “permanently physically incapacitated to the point where they find life intolerable” could ask for assisted suicide. MacDonald, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, said at the launch of the bill that she wanted to prevent prosecution for those family members who “help” a loved-one to die.

“It’s absolutely appalling that people should have to leave their homes and their families and friends and everything that’s familiar to them, and end their life in a foreign country in what has to be a relatively clinical atmosphere,” she said.

But the disability rights group Care Not Killing called the scope of MacDonald’s bill “incredibly broad,” and warned, “Tens of thousands of seriously ill and disabled people throughout Scotland would fall within its remit.”

Care Not Killing said that the bill went past assisted suicide, and proposed to allow physicians to euthanize patients directly. Moreover, the bill contained no conscience clause that would allow doctors to refuse to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia.

“The drafting of the bill is vague and full of euphemisms and ambiguities. Among others, there is no definition of what it is to find life ‘intolerable’ and the methods by which life would be legally terminated are not identified,” said Care Not Killing.

The group also said that the bill fails to specify ‘means of administration’ of assisted suicide so that “it might conceivably include gas (carbon monoxide or helium), hanging, a bullet or a push off a cliff.” It called the bill’s “safeguards” “seriously defective,” and said that it failed to specify procedures by which doctors would report an assisted suicide, making a “meaningful audit of how the law was working highly problematic.”

Joseph Lee said, “We expect that when the issue comes to be voted on next week, it will now simply be a formality that the bill will be defeated. We hope that the bill suffers a heavy defeat to send out a clear signal that our Government is willing to protect the weak and the vulnerable.”

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