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Majority of Scots support the legalisation of assisted suicide

Total of 69% polled said they want Margo MacDonald's assisted suicide Bill made law.

Assisted suicide: Second bid to pass legislation.
© STV

More than two thirds of Scots support a bid to change the law in Scotland to legalise assisted suicide, a new poll has suggested.

A total of 69% of those questioned said they wanted the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, being put forward by independent MSP Margo MacDonald to be passed by Holyrood.

The poll was carried out for a new campaign body launched on Thurday, which has been set up to support the Bill.

The independent organisation My Life, My Death, My Choice, is being led by the Humanist Society Scotland and the group Friends At The End (Fate), which already campaigns for a change in the law relating to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Bob Scott, a spokesman for My Life, My Death, My Choice called on MSPs to "pay attention" to the results of the survey — which was carried out by Progressive Scottish Opinion earlier this month — and pass Ms MacDonald's Bill as soon as possible.

While 69% of those questioned supported the Bill, the poll — which was carried out for the new campaign group — showed 13% did not agree with it, while 18% were unsure, undecided or had no opinion.

He said: "This poll result shows there is a large amount of support for the Assisted Suicide Bill in Scotland. We think MSPs should pay attention to the 69% of the electorate that are in favour of this Bill and take action to pass this measure as soon as possible."

He added: "Even with the excellent palliative care available in Scotland, a small number of patients are unable to have their intolerable suffering relieved. We want to ensure that people are provided with appropriate information to make their own individual choices and, in certain limited circumstances, given assistance to end their life."

The Bill is Lothian MSP Ms MacDonald's second attempt to change the law to give people the right to die, with a previous attempt having been voted down during the last parliament.

Her proposed legislation now contains an "early warning" system, whereby anyone over the age of 16 can inform their GP of their support in principle for assisted suicide.

This indication can be noted in the person's medical records at any time but it must be stated a minimum of seven days before they can formally request help to end their life.

Only those who are terminally ill or who are suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions which make life intolerable will be able to seek assisted suicide.

Any requests to GPs must be backed up by a second professional opinion, and followed by a 14-day "cooling-off" period. This process is then repeated again with a second request, after which one of the doctors concerned would supply a licensed facilitator with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place.

This facilitator, or "friend at the end", has no relationship with the patient and is given the task of collecting the prescription and agreeing the process of assisted suicide, including whether the person wishes to say goodbye to their family and friends.

If the prescription is not used within 14 days, it must be returned to the chemist.

When she launched the Bill in November Ms MacDonald said she believed it could be successful this time, stating: "I have sensed from the beginning that there was a change because of the volume of support that we can demonstrate."

Care Not Killing, an alliance of individuals and organisations opposed to the Bill, said assisted suicide is unnecessary, unethical and uncontrollable.

A spokesman said: "For several decades now between two thirds and three quarters of the general public have supported the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide and this most recent poll actually shows a decrease in support from the 75% registered in an STV poll in 2009.

"Public support for assisted suicide, or any other form of euthanasia, is generally reflex rather than considered. It is also uninformed and uncommitted.

"It is uninformed because most people have little understanding of the complexities and dangers in legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia and are unaware of what has happened when it has been legalised elsewhere. It is uncommitted because euthanasia and assisted suicide rank very low in most people's political priorities.

"Furthermore when legislators consider the question they inevitably decide no, as they did for Margo's last Bill which was defeated in the Scottish parliament in 2010 by an overwhelming majority of 85 to 16. In addition doctors' groups and disabled people's advocates have consistently opposed legalisation.

"Any change in the law would inevitably place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial or emotional burden upon others and these pressures would be acutely felt at a time of economic recession when many families and the health service itself are under pressure."

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