A RETIRED Scottish GP is ­offering to help patients take their own lives if assisted suicide is legalised in Scotland.

Dr Bob Scott, who worked as a family doctor in Inverness, Dunbartonshire and Drumchapel, said he was willing to perform the role of a "facilitator", collecting the fatal prescription and overseeing a patient's final hours.

He and trained nurse Jennifer Buchan both spoke about their willingness to perform the role as part of the official launch of MSP Margo MacDonald's bill to allow the practice in Scotland.

Under Ms MacDonald's proposals, trained and licensed facilitators would help patients take the steps necessary to comply with the law and fulfil their wish to die.

Dr Scott, who performs funerals as a celebrant for the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), said his experience as a GP had informed his view in favour of assisted dying. He said: "There were people who would far rather have died sooner than they ultimately did.

"I recollect a particular instance where a lovely family approached me and asked if there was something that could be done to shorten the life of their father who was dying slowly. These rare cases do lie in the memory and do confront doctors with tough decisions."

Dr Scott said he had never intervened as a doctor to help someone die and it was rare for patients, confronted by terminal illness and disability, to want to end their lives.

He said he had thought carefully about performing the facilitator's role and was sure it would be emotionally difficult, but he also wanted to help the patients concerned.

Around 23 of the 130-plus humanist celebrants in Scotland are interested in providing the service, according to Dr Scott. He stressed careful training and psychological assessment would be essential for anyone considering the facilitator role.

Mrs Buchan, from Renfrewshire, said the time she spent as a nurse in Scotland had left her ­feeling patients should have the option of assisted suicide. "I did nurse some people who had very life-limiting conditions and the conversations I had with them were so sad because they knew what was coming and they had no choice and they were trapped."

She has discussed her willingness to become a facilitator, should Ms MacDonald's bill pass, with her husband, himself a doctor, and her two children aged 17 and 10.

"We have talked about it in a rational and reasonable manner," she said. "It is reasonable for people to choose not to live through intolerable pain or unbearable discomfort."

Mrs Buchan is also a celebrant with HSS who conducts funerals. "My family are very well aware of end-of-life situations," she said.

Dr Scott said as a doctor he was familiar with death, but recognised for other people it was frightening. He said: "There is less death about in general society than was once the case.

"Our grandparents were more accustomed to people just along the street dying at home. Sure it happens still, but much less often. People who are dying tend to be shut away in hospitals or hospices, and death at home is not as common as it was once."

He and Mrs Buchan are due to speak at the launch of Ms MacDonald's bill at the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh today. Sylvan Luley, from the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, to where foreigners can travel for an assisted death, was also expected to attend.

Ms MacDonald, an independent Lothians MSP, has brought a bill legalising assisted suicide to the Scottish Parliament before. It was defeated at the end of 2010. 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 in the presence of a licensed facilitator.