THE landmark case of a chronically ill grandfather who is seeking the right to an assisted death will reach court in Scotland for the first time today.


Gordon Ross, a 66-year-old from Glasgow, suffers from a number of health problems including Parkinson's disease and says his condition has deteriorated since he launched his legal action in February.

The main hearing is scheduled to start in two months, but last week Mr Ross was informed the Crown want to put the case on hold for half a year because a bill seeking to legalise assisted suicide is being discussed in the Scottish Parliament.

Today in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, lawyers for Mr Ross are expected to oppose this delay, firstly as Mr Ross' health has gone downhill and secondly, because it is by no means guaranteed the proposed legislation will pass. The first End of Life Assistance bill, brought by the late Margo MacDonald MSP, was defeated in Holyrood by 85 votes to 16.

Mr Ross, who has four children and five grandchildren, said: "For people in my situation and worse it will just be another frustration if the hearing is delayed - it certainly will be for me.

"At the moment I have not made a decision either positive or negative (about ending my life) and the main reason for that is I do not know what the situation is going to be both in terms of my health - which we have little control over - and in terms of the law, which we do have control over. If I could just get that sorted, we could make the decision about the health more logically and more sensibly.

"I do not want to do it at a time when my children or my colleagues or my friends who are there are liable to end up in custody just because of that."

As well as Parkinson's Mr Ross, once a TV production manager, suffers from nerve damage known as peripheral neuropathy. He is unable to walk and lives in a care home among dementia sufferers.

Every day he endures half hour episodes when his muscles become rigid and he shakes uncontrollably. He said: "Often the only thing I can do when this happens is go to bed. I shake so much I am frightened to sit in the wheelchair or even the big, comfy chair. I feel as if I am going to slide to the floor."

He describes these events as horrid and is worried about reaching a stage where they cannot be stopped. "I am still not suicidal, but I feel that I will become that way," he said.

One of his prime concerns about the current legal situation is that patients who feel they may one day want help to die, instead take their own lives early to avoid a situation where they are too ill to kill themselves.

His lawyers from Patrick Campbell and Co are seeking a judicial review which they hope will clarify how someone who assists in a suicide out of compassion is likely to be treated by Scottish law.

In England a number of patients have challenged the law around assisted suicide and in 2010 the director of public prosecutions issued guidelines which mean someone who helps a terminally ill patient who wishes to die is unlikely to face court. Similar guidance does not exist north of the Border.

Ms MacDonald, who died this April, also suffered from Parkinson's and her second bill - which would introduce licensed facilitators to help patients fulfil their wish to die - is currently being considered by the justice committee.

Bob Scott, spokesman for Friends at the End - the campaign group who are helping support Mr Ross' case, said they were disappointed about the possible delay. He said: "There has already been substantial delay in this matter coming to court and this case is about someone who is chronically unwell."

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "We are aware of the Judicial Review action initiated by Mr Ross. The Petition for Judicial Review was served on the Lord Advocate on 14 November 2014.

"Answers to the Petition for the Lord Advocate were lodged on 5 December 2014. There has been no delay whatsoever on the part of the Lord Advocate in this action.

As the case is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further".