Choosing to die

Did you catch Sir Terry Pratchett's documentary, Choosing to Die?

As he acknowledged himself at the outset, a difficult topic.

Extra difficult on this occasion in that the programme showed a man being assisted to die at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Self-evidently, the issue divides.

There are those who say that assisted suicide can mean a dignified end for those obliged to endure a terminal illness. It removes the fear of prosecution from those offering such assistance.

Against that, there are those who argue the absolute sanctity of life and those who fear that the measure might over-reach, once introduced.

'Scare stories'

The Pratchett programme has obviously prompted further substantial interest in the issue - and further substantial debate.

But, at Holyrood, there is a more precise question. Will MSPs back such a move when presented once again with the choice?

Margo MacDonald has signalled that she will introduce a further Member's Bill on this topic in the present session, following the defeat of her End of Life Assistance Bill prior to the election.

Work on the new bill is under way now but it is expected that she will seek to make the measure more tightly drawn and focused than the Bill which was defeated.

The previous Bill would have allowed people whose lives become intolerable through a progressive degenerative condition, a trauma or terminal illness to seek a doctor's help in dying.

That led to what the MSP believes were "scare stories" about the Bill potentially affecting more people than intended.

Expect a new round of consultation on the new Bill to begin in the autumn. Expect further controversy.