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Anti-suicide alliance poised to oppose right-to-die case

AN alliance of organisations against assisted suicide is set to oppose a Scottish grandfather's legal battle for the right to help to end his life.

YESTERDAY'S FRONT PAGE: How The Herald broke Gordon Ross's story.
YESTERDAY'S FRONT PAGE: How The Herald broke Gordon Ross's story.

Care Not Killing (CNK) is a UK-wide group which is against any changes to legislation which would allow patients help to die.

Gordon Ross, a 65-year-old from Glasgow with Parkinson's disease, is launching a legal action in Scotland, saying he has lost his right to take his own life because his disabilities make it increasingly difficult for him to carry out the act on his own.

Lawyers are expected to enter correspondence with the Crown Office on his behalf this week.

When locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson applied for any doctor ending his life to be immune from prosecution in England, CNK fought against his case in court.

A spokesman said: "With regard to the possibility of proceedings being taken in the Scottish courts, we remain open to pursuing our stated aims of opposing unethical, uncontrollable and unnecessary legal change in favour of proper and dignified care through a variety of channels."

There have been a number of high-profile cases in England involving patients who wanted to know someone could help them end their lives without facing a criminal investigation.

The most recent brought together Mr Nicklinson's family and Paul Lamb of Leeds, who was paralysed in a road crash and says he is in constant pain. In addition a third man, known only as Martin, has sought clarification of guidelines covering who will face prosecution in the event of an assisted death.

The CNK spokesman said: "The matter has yet to come before the Scottish courts. However, in the past, when such issues have been raised south of the Border, CNK has intervened."

He said that CNK made "well-received" contributions to the legal proceedings that surrounded the Nicklinson/Lamb and Martin cases.

The spokesman added: "These contributions have consistently reaffirmed the simple truth that the current law exists to protect the vulnerable and those without a voice: disabled people, terminally ill people and elderly people, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives."

Guidelines have been issued by the director of public prosecutions south of the Border which mean if someone has made a well-informed, independent decision about taking their own life, helping them for purely compassionate reasons is unlikely to trigger a prosecution.

In Scotland no guidelines have been issued and assisting a suicide could leave people open to prosecution for culpable homicide.

CNK is an alliance of disability and human rights groups, healthcare providers and faith groups. Its spokesman said: "We do not think it is necessarily in the public interest to prosecute all cases of assisted suicide but do believe that the current law needs to be strongly upheld in order to provide a powerful deterrent effect. Our continued intervention in the Martin case bears out our belief that 'further clarifying' published guidelines risks presenting those wishing to avoid prosecution with a checklist."

A bill which would legalise assisted deaths has been proposed by MSP Margo MacDonald in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Ross is receiving financial support to launch his case in Scotland from campaign group Friends at the End (Fate) who back Ms MacDonald's bill.

Sheila Duffy, spokeswoman for Fate, said they were not "combative" with Care Not Killing but took issue with patients not being allowed a choice regarding end-of-life care.

Mr Ross stresses that he is currently not suicidal.

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