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INSIDE TRACK: An interview that will stay with me for a very long time

The best interviews I do are with ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

I've met a few famous folk in my time as a journalist, including Stephen Fry and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but the stories that stay with me were told by people who could live down my street.

I still remember sitting in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, while a 31-year-old from Turkey described the noise of the earthquake he just survived during a visit home: the dog howling, his father shouting, a loudness he had never heard before rising from the ground.

I am being genuine, therefore, when I write that I felt lucky to spend last Thursday lunchtime with Gordon Ross, a grandfather from Glasgow. He has Parkinson's disease, among other health problems and, as The Herald reported on Monday, he is launching Scotland's first court case seeking the right for help to end his life.

There have been cases in England before, but not in Scotland, so this former civil servant with a good head for figures is doing something extraordinary. I found him to be quietly feisty.

Before we began the interview I told Mr Ross that I had lots of questions to ask but that, if he had had enough at any point, he should say so.

His reply, delivered with good humour, echoed what his friend had already told me: if it was time for me to leave Mr Ross would not be afraid to let me know.

As it was, he was extremely tolerant, not just talking about himself, his decision and his family but also persevering with a search for photographs on his computer despite the impact of his condition. It can make routine hand-eye co-ordination so tricky.

I can't claim to have got to know Mr Ross well over those couple of hours, but it still seemed strange when I was speaking to members of anti-euthanasia alliance Care Not Killing this week to hear comments about his decision to go to court such as: "This is one of the tactics those campaigning for a change in the law use. They find cases involving a frail person." Also: "People have a horror about the dying process ... "

Neither of these seemed to reflect Mr Ross's circumstances and concerns. Illness has taken its toll on his physical health but I would be surprised if anyone called him frail. That said, Care not Killing does raise very reasonable fears that any change to existing laws will leave vulnerable people open to murder under the guise of compassion and I would not want to see their worries dismissed lightly, either.

My overriding concern, as Independent MSP Margo MacDonald's bill to legalise assisted suicide progresses through the Scottish Parliament, is that the debate will be lazy. Arguments will be trotted out about better palliative care as if it were an alternative to assisted suicide and MSPs will vote according to personal beliefs or party politics instead of listening to constituents.

By telling his story, I hope Mr Ross has reminded them that this is not a paper exercise; nor is it about what they do in other countries such as the Netherlands. It is about how Scotland wants to care for people in Scotland, and that deserves due consideration.

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