Campaigners from across Europe gathered at the Royal Society of Edinburgh last Friday to mark European Right to Die Day, and to launch Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide Bill. This is MacDonald’s second attempt to change the law – her first proposal in 2010 was heavily defeated, by 85 votes to 16. But with recent high profile cases like that of Tony Nicklinson and a shift in public opinion, MacDonald believes that this time things will be different. The publication of a draft bill on assisted dying by Lord Falconer means that the issue is high on the political agenda both north and south of the border.
Last week I interviewed MSP’s opposed to assisted suicide, and met Margo MacDonald to find out how her new assisted suicide bill would work. I produced two radio reports about this, one for Free Speech Radio News in America, and the other for BBC Radio Scotland’s Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross show. For MacDonald, this is both a professional and a personal campaign – she has Parkinson’s disease, and as she told me, is just the sort of person who might want assisted suicide if their life becomes intolerable.
Below you’ll find quotes from MacDonald and from two MSPs opposed to the bill.
“Anyone who is driven to commit suicide on their own…such a lonely, terrible death. (long pause, emotional…) and I can only feel sorry for them. Anyone who asks for assistance to end their life, strictly speaking is asking for assistance to commit suicide. But they’d have a someone with them, they’d have a friend at the end, it would be done properly. If they were taking a draught, it would be the right amount, because a pharmacist would have dispensed it properly. If perhaps they were having an injection, if they couldn’t swallow or something like that, it would be properly applied, and there would be a dignity and a quietness and a peace about the thing. That’s possible, and that’s what I’m aiming for.” Margo MacDonald, Independent MSP.
“The main risk for me are people who are vulnerable. They may well feel under pressure from family to actually take up the offers of assisted suicide if it was available.” Dr Richard Simpson, MSP, Shadow Public Health Minister in the Scottish Parliament.
“for me the Christian faith is quite important, and so for myself personally I think it would be wrong for me to end my own life. But if other people make that choice, I totally believe in freedom of choice and largely freedom of action …. It’s as soon as you bring in the assisted side I think there is more of a problem.” John Mason, SNP MSP for Shettleston.