A REVISED bid to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland has been launched amid criticism that a change in the law would put the elderly at risk.

Independent MSP Margo Macdonald unveiled the revised consultation document at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, a year after MSPs overwhelmingly rejected her previous Bill on the issue, in a vote of 85 to 16.

However, the veteran politician – who suffers from Parkinson's disease – said she had "learned lessons" from her previous attempt and is proposing a "clearer, more straight-forward process".

She said: "My supporters and I have learned lessons from the previous Bill, not least from listening to the views and experiences of people on both sides of the issues.

"We remain convinced that majority opinion favours the position reflected by my Bill – people in full command of their rights to be able to request help to end their lives at a time and a place of their choice if their life has been made intolerable by an irrecoverable illness.

"My hope for this Bill is that MSPs, freed from the immediate pressures of an approaching election, will seek out and then reflect the views of those they represent at Holyrood. This question will not go away, and neither will I."

The public and any other interested parties can respond to the draft document over the next 12 weeks, after which a final version will be drawn up and put to a vote in Holyrood.

Among the major changes in the revised right-to-die paper is the dropping of the physician-assisted element which was key to the previous Bill. Instead, an individual must be capable of self-administering a fatal dose of medication.

Also gone is the requirement for doctors to agree that a person has no more than six months left to live. Instead, the criteria will be the patient's own opinion on the "intolerability of their life", though only individuals with a terminal illness or condition – such as cancer, motor-neurone disease or Parkinson's – would be considered. A case such as that of Dan James, the 23-year-old English student who ended his life at Dignitas after being left paralysed from the neck down in a rugby accident, would not be covered.

There is also a proposal that a trained "licensed facilitator" – a so-called "friend at the end" – would have to be present when someone is at the point of ending their own life, and plans are outlined for a pre-registration document for someone to indicate their potential wish for an assisted suicide in advance.

John Bishop, secretary of the Humanist Society Scotland, said there may be scope for its celebrants to volunteer for an additional role as a facilitator. He added: "This consultation is an important step forward for Scotland. This Bill proposes a logical step in law to match the advancement of medical science."

However, BMA Scotland – the professional body representing doctors in Scotland – remains opposed to any law change.

A spokeswoman for BMA Scotland said: "The BMA is opposed to assisted suicide and physician-assisted suicide. Despite the fact there have been some changes since the last Bill, we still oppose the Bill on principle."

Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, said that – particularly in light of the ageing population – the Government should encourage society to accept that elderly or disabled people may become dependent on others without losing any of their inherent dignity.

Dr MacKellar added: "These proposals are asking the people of Scotland to agree that there are lives that should be ended. That there is such a thing as a 'life unworthy of life', which is a concept that should never be accepted in a civilised society."

Rev Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church of Scotland, said he was disappointed that fresh attempts were being made to legalise assisted dying.