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Medics back assisted suicide

A group of doctors has formed a new body backing proposals to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

The practising and retired medics will lobby MSPs considering the change put forward by veteran politician Margo MacDonald, who died in April.

It is the second attempt to pass an Assisted Suicide Bill at the Scottish Parliament. The group, Doctors for Assisted Suicide (DAS), set out their views to Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee. Secretary Dr Gillian MacDougall said: "We hope that the launch of DAS will encourage people in the medical professions across Scotland to get involved in this important debate for our profession.

"We strongly believe that patients should have the choice about when and how they die. Making assisted suicide legal gives doctors the opportunity to support patients to make that choice and thereby improves the care we can offer. This choice should not be denied to the few people to whom it would give immense comfort.With the safeguards included in the Bill, it would make assisted suicide available while ­reducing any danger of inappropriate pressure being applied. We would urge those other doctors who do support this measure to get in touch at www.doctorsforassistedsuicide.org.uk"

The committee's consultation on the Bill closes on Friday. The last attempt failed in a free vote at Holyrood in the SNP's first term in government.

Ms MacDonald, who sat as an independent MSP, made changes to her proposal before trying again. The Bill is now being steered through parliament by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

Dr MacDougall was among a number of senior clinicians who penned a letter to The Herald in March backing moves to change the law.

She said: "It is really hard in the medical profession to stand up and say you support this as a practising doctor. I think there is a fear of being labelled Dr Death and fear of any political repercussions."

She stressed that under the proposed Bill patients have to initiate any discussion about assisted suicide - it could not be proposed by a doctor.

She said: "The Bill is very clear that it all has to come from the patient."

Dr MacDougall, who works for NHS Lothian, said she had never been asked for help to die, but on occasions people expressed regret about waking in the morning.

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