MSPs resume consideration of assisted suicide proposals

13 Jan

  The Faculty has underscored its contention that the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill requires greater clarity and precision.

In wide-ranging and detailed evidence about the Bill to the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee, David Stephenson, QC, for the Faculty, said the point of the proposed legislation was to protect those who may have helped someone take their own life, and to prevent them from being prosecuted or found liable in a civil court.

He added: "The more general and more open the legislative provisions are, the more the risk is of uncertainty and somebody failing to comply with a court's interpretation of what the Act means and intends...the more flexible the system is, the more open it is to different interpretations and the greater the difficulty people will have in knowing they are protected."

Mr Stephenson's remarks echoed written submissions by the Faculty to the committee, which stated: "If Parliament is to pass legislation to protect persons from what would otherwise be the legal consequences of assisting another person to commit suicide, the Faculty considers it is important that such legislation is clear, readily understood (and not just by lawyers), that key terms are well-defined and not open to a variety of interpretations, and that the penalties for breach of the requirements of the legislation are spelled out.The Faculty considers that the Bill as currently drafted may not achieve these essential goals."

The Bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald, MSP, before her death last year, and aims to allow those with terminal or life-shortening illnesses to obtain help in ending their life.

The Faculty has made clear that it does not express views on social policy, and neither supports nor opposes the policy pursued in the Bill. Its evidence has been in relation to technical and legal features of the Bill.

As well as Mr Stephenson, the committee also heard from representatives of the Law Society of Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland.

View the evidence session via by scrolling down to the video.