In a report published today, the Justice Committee makes a number of recommendations on the processes and possible implications of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill for the Health and Sport Committee to consider as it begins lead scrutiny of the Bill.
Convener Christine Grahame said:
“It was not the role of the Justice Committee to take a view on the moral or ethical issues surrounding the Bill – that is rightly the role of the lead committee. Our task was to hear evidence and report on the practical application and legal aspects of the Bill, if it was to be passed by the Parliament in due course.
“Clarity is essential. For example, the role of the licensed facilitator is one area where more detail is needed especially given the potential consequences for those involved. We therefore recommend that the lead committee explores this and other issues in more depth.
“There were concerns that setting a time limit between the second request and the act of suicide might put unintended pressure on some people. This is a further difficult area that would benefit from more scrutiny. Recording requirements in the Bill must also be watertight to ensure all involved are not subject to unnecessary police investigation or possible prosecution.
“The Scottish Parliament rightly has to satisfy itself that any proposed piece of legislation, especially one that deals with issues of life and death, has robustly considered all implications and I hope that our report helps guide the Health and Sport Committee in its wider scrutiny of the Bill.”
The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 13 November 2013 by Margo MacDonald MSP. On the Bill’s introduction, Patrick Harvie MSP was designated as an additional member in charge of the Bill and is taking the Bill through its various stages in the Parliament.
The Health and Sport Committee will begin taking oral evidence on the Bill on 13 January, where they will hear from the legal and medical professions. The Committee expects to take evidence until the end of February and plan to publish a report in the spring. The whole Parliament will then get an opportunity to debate and vote on the general principles of the Bill.
A copy of the Justice Committee’s report is available at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/29846.aspx