A FORMER Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has called on the Kirk to back the legal provision of "assistance towards a peaceful death" as long as safeguards are incorporated.

 

The Very Reverend Sandy McDonald, 77, who is terminally ill, said he believes the Church should address the issue as a matter of urgency at the annual gathering of senior Church figures in Edinburgh.

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Speaking in a personal capacity, the retired minister who was known for his television appearances on Late Call, and whose son is Broadchurch and Doctor Who actor David Tennant, said that the first step for society is to stop describing such end of life care as "assisted suicide".

The Kirk is formally against a change in the law such as the Assisted Suicide Bill currently going through debate at Holyrood while in ongoing discussions about providing better palliative care for people who suffer towards the end of their life.

Mr McDonald, who lives in Paisley, said he has had to face the subject and that the Church and the broader community should act.

He does not know how long he has to live but he has made an end of life plan.

"I have pulmonary fibrosis. It just gets worse. There is no cure. I have had to address it and decide what to do.

"I have an advance directive which says 'do not resuscitate'. I do not want to be fed by something in my stomach.

"What I do want is the right to a peaceful end to my life."

He continued: "I think we have the wrong slant, the wrong emphasis.

"The phrase - assisted suicide - has criminal overtones in the minds of many people.

"We need to take seriously the provision of a peaceful end of life for all those who need and want it.

"Of course there would have be safeguards and that should be discussed."

The minister for more than 50 years said many people were suffering as a result of a lack of provision of assistance towards peaceful end of life

"We have got so many people, in our nursing homes, in our care homes and our bed blocked hospitals, whether elderly or seriously ill, are saying 'it's time for me to die'. I sympathise hugely with them."

He said medical staff also suffer.

"The doctors and nurses have their hands tied because they are liable to end up in court."

The Bishopbriggs-born retired minister whose wife Helen died in 2007 and who has a daughter and another son, said the issue should take precedence at this year's assembly in May.

He has been minster in Longriggend, north Lanarkshire, Bathgate and Ralston before be coming General Secretary of the Church of Scotland's Board of Ministry until he retired in 2002.

He added: "I believe that it is only just that the Church come together and discuss this."

Mr Tennant earlier this month dedicated his special recognition accolade at the National Television Awards to his father.

Mr McDonald said he was delighted with the dedication, saying of his son: "For a relatively young man (43) he has had a great career.

"The event brought a great deal of joy.

"Friends from all over have been ringing since the broadcast. Some people I have not heard from for years have been in touch to say how delighted they were. It was good to talk to them. Some have been generous in their interest in the work I have done in the Church."