Scotland votes on right to die

By staff

MSPs will vote on whether to give terminally ill people the right to die today.

The government and the opposition have agreed to allow a free vote on the proposals, from independent MSP Margo MacDonald, who has Parkinson’s disease.

The Lothian MSP’s end of life choices (Scotland) bill would open up the possibility of legitimately asking someone to help end life when suffering from a progressive degenerative condition, trauma or terminal illness.

As the law stands, people in Scotland can end their own life legally, but it remains illegal to help someone end their life.

Ms MacDonald’s bill would allow patients to seek their doctor’s help in dying, as long as the doctor had no ethical or religious objections.

The continued debate on the topic mirrors that occurring in England, where the director of public prosecutions recently assured the public he was unlikely to take legal action against friends of family members who help their loved ones die.

The comments stopped just short of formalising an informal assumption in the legal community that there was no need to take action in the vast majority of cases, which receive considerable public support.

No such guidance exists north of the border.