View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 21 January 2010


The Scottish Parliament today started to debate a Bill on Assisted Suicide. It was launched by MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) Margo Macdonald, who is a passionate believer in what she terms assisted suicide. I think it is a good thing to have a debate on this very difficult issue, and party leaders at Holyrood have promised that members will have a free vote on the issue, once the time for that arrives.

I copy a summary of the Bill's main points from the BBC website:

  • Person must be terminally ill or "permanently physically incapacited"
  • Request must be made to and approved by doctor and psychiatrist
  • Both must be asked twice after 15-days cooling off period
  • Assistance must be supervised by the approving doctor
  • Close friends and relatives banned from administering drug
  • Only over-16s qualify
  • Applicants must be registered with Scottish GP for 18 months
  • Bill does not apply to those with dementia or other degenerative mental condition
As you may be aware, euthanasia has been practiced in the Netherlands for more than 30 years under a similar legal framework. I should add that once death has occurred, the GP is required to report the event to the public prosecutor, and I understand that same will also apply in Scotland. Once the prosecutor is satisfied that the legal requirements have been met, no prosecution will follow.

In the UK, there have been several high-profile cases, where terminally ill people travelled to Switzerland for euthanasia. Doctors in the UK would face prosecution for manslaughter or murder, and so would anyone else involved in the euthanasia. It is time this issue is sorted out either way. I hope this Bill will start a nationwide debate in the UK on euthanasia - to place it on the statute book as accepted legal practice, or not as the case may be.

I realise that my standpoint may be incompatible with that of several of my readers, and I apologise for any upset or distress caused. However, this is an issue under debate in society and if anyone has any views on this, it would be very good to have them all aired.

Thursday 21 January

Overcast this morning with a strengthening wind. Severe gales could develop later today, keeping up our average of one gale a week. Ferry services up and down the west coast of Scotland are duly disrupted.

Australia is bracing itself for tropical cyclone Magda. This storm formed last night (GMT) and is headed straight for the coast of Western Australia, north of the town of Derby. Magda is expected to strengthen rapidly, with the Australia Bureau of Meteorology anticipating the storm to be at category 4 strength (that is a lower category of strength than the corresponding category in the Saffir Simpson scale) by landfall, late on Friday (GMT).

More later.