MSPs begin scrutiny of the Assisted Suicide Bill


Proposals to legalise assisted suicide will today be scrutinised by MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee.

The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill is at stage one of the parliamentary scrutiny process and the nine MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee will begin their scrutiny by questioning the legal and medical professions on their view of the proposals.

At their meeting today (13 January), the Committee will hear from the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland, Police Scotland and the Crown Office. They will then question the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland.

Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, Duncan McNeil MSP said:

“MSPs have a duty to scrutinise the detail behind any proposed piece of legislation, but given that this bill adjudicates on life and death, it is imperative that we robustly and transparently scrutinise what is being proposed.

“Our Committee has already received the views of over 800 people and will now start over two months of evidence, hearing from those with knowledge, expertise and interest in how the proposed bill would operate in practice.

“I want to make clear that all MSPs on the Committee will consider the evidence in front of them, question robustly our witnesses and consider carefully the implications before we reach a Committee view.” 

Deputy Convener of the Committee, Bob Doris MSP said:  

"This legislation has the potential to polarise opinion on both sides of the debate, and as a Committee we understand the strength of feeling that these proposals generate.  

“However, it is our job as a Committee to approach this subject without prejudice, take a detailed look at the proposals and consider both the written and oral evidence before taking a Committee view on any change in the law.” 


At its meeting on Tuesday 13 January (which will be broadcast live on Parliament TV), the Committee will hear from the following witnesses: 

Legal profession

Panel 1 

  • David Stephenson Q.C., The Faculty of Advocates;
  • Professor Alison Britton, Convenor of the Society Health and Medical Law Committee, and Coral Riddell, Head of Professional Practice for the Society, The Law Society of Scotland; 
  • Gary Flannigan, Detective Chief Superintendent, Police Scotland; 
  • Stephen McGowan, Procurator Fiscal, Major Crime and Fatalities Investigation, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; 

Medical profession 

Panel 2 

  • Dr Francis Dunn, President, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow;
  • Dr Stephen Potts, Consultant Psychiatrist, The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland; 
  • Aileen Bryson, Practice and Policy Lead, Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland.

In future meetings, the Committee expects to hear from:  

20 January 2015 

Ethical issues: Living and Dying Well; Mason Institute; Anscombe Bioethics Centre; Scottish Council for Human Bioethics; Dr Stephen W Smith.

27 January 

Palliative care specialists: Dr Stephen Hutchison; Dr David Jeffrey; Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care; Marie Curie Cancer Care; Children’s Hospice Association Scotland and Professor Baroness Finlay. 

Faith groups: Church of Scotland Church and Society Committee; Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland; Free Church of Scotland; Faith and Order Board of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church; Muslim Council of Scotland; Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.

3 February 

Campaign/Interest groups: Friends At The End; My Life, My Death, My Choice; Humanist Society of Scotland; CARE for Scotland; Care Not Killing.

Groups representing people with disabilities and long-term conditions: Inclusion Scotland; Scottish Youth Alliance; Alzheimer Scotland; Parkinson’s UK; BMA Scotland. 

17 February 


The Health and Sport Committee will report to Parliament in spring 2015. After this time, the whole Parliament will have an opportunity to debate and vote on the proposals.

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