Allow terminally ill the right to die with dignity

A VETERAN member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) who suffers from Parkinson s disease is calling for a public debate on assisted suicide. Margo MacDonald, 64, has told fellow MSPs she should have the right to bring about her own death and now intends to

A VETERAN member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) who suffers from Parkinson's disease is calling for a public debate on assisted suicide.

Margo MacDonald, 64, has told fellow MSPs she should have the right to bring about her own death and now intends to research clinics abroad which allow the terminally ill to do just that.

I am firmly in favour of legalising assisted suicide in Britain, which currently carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Suicide itself is not a crime in England or Wales as it was decriminalised in 1961, and it has never been illegal under Scottish law. This makes it a crime to assist in a non-crime.


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The only difference between suicide and assisted suicide is that the individual, who may otherwise be incapable, is provided with the means (drugs or equipment) to commit suicide. It is still the individual's decision to take their own life and their own actions which bring about their death. It is quite different to euthanasia, when someone else carries out the critical action.

Why should a person with a severely debilitating terminal illness, with little or no quality of life, be kept alive against their wishes? Permitting them to choose when, how and where they die allows that person to retain a level of dignity and control over their lives.

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I don't think palliative care is the answer for everyone. I agree with Ms MacDonald when she said: "Hospices aren't anything like as widespread as I would want to see them, and there is no doubt that palliative care varies from district to district."

She added: "Palliative care is fine for some people but there are conditions that it doesn't suit."

If Ms MacDonald's desire for a public discussion is realised, one thing's for sure, it will be hotly debated. To my mind, an open debate can only be a good thing.

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