The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill has now been tabled in the Scottish Parliament by Margo MacDonald MSP, with the support of a cross-party group including Patrick Harvie (Green), Jackson Carlaw (Conservative), Mary Fee (Labour) and Liam McArthur (Liberal Democrat).

If approved, the Bill will enable people with terminal or life-shortening illnesses who wish to end their own lives to obtain assistance in doing so.

We believe it is important that both those in the medical profession and beyond understand exactly what is being proposed.

The Bill makes clear that only individuals can initiate the process. It lays out a three-staged process to be followed in all cases, with cooling-off periods between each to ensure that no decision can be taken impulsively. Witnesses for these stages cannot be family members nor stand to benefit financially from the person's death. There is also a requirement for two doctors, acting independently over the course of four separate consultations, to verify that the person meets the criteria of the Bill. Those include being free from mental illness and having the capacity to fully understand the implications of what they are doing.

Only if the stringent demands of those stages are satisfied can a prescription be issued. This will be collected by an independent facilitator. The individual will then have 14 days to use that, failing which it will be removed. Crucially, only the individual can take the step which ends their life. This is completely different from euthanasia where a doctor administers a lethal injection. The Bill also requires anyone who suspects that the correct process is not being followed to report their concerns to the police.

The measures in this Bill will complement the excellent palliative care that is already on offer in Scotland, not undermine it. We believe that the safeguards designed to protect the vulnerable are comprehensive and rigorous, with doctors being the best professionals to assess for any concerns regarding coercion.

We are also reassured that a doctor cannot be compelled to participate in the process, should they not wish to do so.

As doctors, we support the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill.

Dr Judy Bury; Dr Judy Greenwood (psychiatrist, retired), Edinburgh; Dr Jane Jay FRCP (addiction specialist, retired); Dr Iain Kerr (GP, retired), Glasgow; Dr Gillian MacDougall (ear, nose and throat surgeon, or ENT, practising), Lothian; Mr Rodney Mountain (ENT surgeon, practising), Tayside; Mr Andrew Murray (ENT surgeon, practising), Glasgow; Dr Karen Rookwood (psychiatrist, practising), Edinburgh; Dr Jean Rennie (GP, retired); Dr Robert Scott (GP, retired), Stirling; Professor Charles Warlow (Professor of Medical Neurology, retired) Lothian.