Blog Archives

Assisted Dying 7: Margo MacDonald MSP

An email correspondent, with whom the writer shared support for assisted dying and Scottish independence, died today. Read her obituary in the Scotsman – avoid the grudging and mean-spirited text in the Telegraph.

margo macdonald

The best tribute is to make sure her thoughts are kept alive. Here are a few sent by email in 2008:

In talking about the end of life, let’s start at the beginning … I don’t support euthanasia. I do support having the best-possible palliative care, whether at home, in a hospice, or any other place a terminally ill person wishes to be when life ends.

But I also support the right of terminally-ill people to end their lives should they become unbearable, and to be able to obtain assistance to do this legally. That’s why I attended the debate, initiated by the Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis, on assisted suicide. I intended to show support for his persistence and to listen and learn.

A few years ago, a UK newspaper published an opinion survey showing a very high percentage of its readers to be in favour of the principles enshrined in Jeremy’s motion. Only one correspondent has expressed opposition to my stance.

The effectiveness of palliative care varies from patient to patient, and unfortunately for some, offers minimal relief. It’s amongst this group that the wish to have a choice of assisted dying is of real interest.

I’m lucky, my Parkinson’s is mild, and in the thirteen or so years since it was diagnosed, I’ve worked normally and exercised regularly. But my luck might not hold up and my condition may degenerate more severely than the present prognosis. In that circumstance, I’d like to be able to count on obtaining assistance without asking anyone to commit a crime in helping me to die.

Having a legal right is not the same as being obliged to act on that right. It’s quite possible that knowing I can legally be assisted to die, if I choose to truncate any prolonged period of severe impairment, might be enough to make the situation bearable.

The people who’ve contacted me face up to what the BMA won’t … that for some terminally ill people a dignified, peaceful end to life cannot be brought about by drugs or even the most sensitive care.

Assisted Dying 6: continuing to deny British people a civilised and peaceful death

Though some form of assisted dying and/or euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Columbia, Oregon, Washington and Montana, and tragic cases in Britain continue to be reported, progress towards a more civilised Britain is appallingly slow.

Patricia Bell was the county archivist of Bedfordshire between 1968 and 1986 and edited the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society’s publications between 1977 and 1991.

The Mail reports that, after making two previous suicide attempts, Ms Bell, who was suffering ‘a great deal of pain’ from breast cancer and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, was found dead in a pond. At the inquest evidence was given that she had begun to worry that she might ‘end up in a home’.

In an official obituary published in the Guardian, Ms Bell’s close friend Richard Wildman said: ‘Her greatest fear was that she would emulate some of her cousins and live to an extreme and uncomfortable old age’.


A good servant of the state?

Was it an attempt to maintain the status quo that made deputy coroner Bob Amos record an open verdict, despite reading the letters from friends and hearing the words from her carer about her attempts to take her own life?

Parliament should take long overdue action and set aside the need of the powerful ‘health/care’ industry for clients and the Christian right’s desire to impose religious inhibitions on the majority who do not share them – then legislate for well-regulated assisted dying for those who want and need it.



Tony Nicklinson is now at peace; how many more people will be forced to suffer?

Tried and tested

Assisted-suicide and/or euthanasia is legal in Columbia, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and three American states: Oregon, Washington, and Montana.

Tony Nicklinson, who was paralysed from the neck down following a stroke in 2005, died peacefully today of natural causes.

He wanted the right to die yet was unable to take his own life or take a cocktail of lethal drugs prepared for him.

High Court judges ruled the issue was for Parliament to decide; knowing that, why did they admit the case?

Mr Nicklinson said he was “devastated” by the decision – in an article he wrote for the BBC, he had described his life as “a living nightmare”.

Tony Nicklinson and so many others could have been spared physical and mental torment.