Retired GP: why I back assisted suicide bill

Bob Scott humanist
Bob Scott humanist

A retired general practitioner from Drymen says he is willing to get involved in assisting people who want to end their own life.

Bob Scott (73), who is a celebrant for the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS), said he would be willing to become a ‘facilitator’ - collecting the fatal prescription from a doctor and overseeing a patient’s final hours.

Dr Scott, who retired nine years ago after working as a doctor in Inverness, Dunbartonshire and Drumchapel, was at the launch of a bill by MSP Margo MacDonald which would legalise assisted suicide.

He said: “This is a very emotive issue and the bill has many hurdles to overcome before it becomes law. That is the way it should be. This new legislation is a much revised and updated version of the previous bill that was not successful when it last came to a vote in parliament.

“One of the major changes in this bill is the creation of a facilitator , whose role is two fold. Firstly to provide care in the final hours and secondly to ensure that the law is correctly observed.”

The HSS was approached in the preliminary stages in the drafting of the legislation for its input and made various suggestions on safeguards.

Dr Scott added: “One of the reasons the previous bill failed was because MSPs were concerned that once someone had obtained a lethal dose of medicine, there was no time limit on when they could take it.

“But under the new proposals the facilitator would be responsible for delivering and returning the medicine to a doctor.”

Dr Scott stressed that the role of a facilitator was not to usurp the role of doctors or nurses involved in the process and it was very important to remember that the decision to takes one’s own life is a very personal one which can only be taken by the individual concerned.

Dr Scott stressed that his role as a Humanist celebrant was more important in understanding the complex issues of why people want to commit suicide than his work as a doctor.

He said: “We are only talking about a very small number of people here. At any time during a patient’s life they will be able to register their interest in assisted suicide with their doctor, but must have what is known as ‘mental capacity. If they do become terminally ill, two doctors need to assess them.”