Judge rejects plea for clearer assisted dying guidance


Three judges reject appeal of late Gordon Ross to make the law clearer for loved ones who help terminally ill relatives to die

JUDGES at the Court of Session in Edinburgh have rejected the appeal of severely disabled grandfather Gordon Ross, who died in January, to set out guidelines for anyone assisting a terminally ill friend or loved one to die.

Mr Ross, who died of pneumonia in January, brought a case for judicial review at the Court of Session in May last year to have guidelines on assisted suicided made clearer but it was thrown out on the grounds that the law on the matter was comprehensive.

An appeal on the judgement has now also been rejected, with the judges decision stating: “The criminal law in relation to assisted suicide in Scotland is clear. It is not a crime ‘to assist’ another to commit suicide.

“However, if a person does something which he knows will cause the death of another person, he will be guilty of homicide if his act is the immediate and direct cause of the person’s death.”

The decision went on to say: “Depending upon the nature of the act, the crime may be murder or culpable homicide. Exactly where the line of causation falls to be drawn is a matter of fact and circumstance for determination in each individual case.”

The court interpreted Mr Ross’ appeal as challenging an “arbitrary” application of homicide law and noted that it did not address euthanasia, substantive criminal law or the settled will of parliament.

“At the moment anyone helping a friend or loved one, who is suffering intolerably, to die faces a charge of murder or manslaughter.” Bob Scott, Fate

Reacting to the court’s decision, Bob Scott of Friends At The End (Fate) said: “Although Gordon died last month, his family, as wells as his friends at Fate and the Humanist Society Scotland, had hoped that the appeal court judges would overturn the previous decision by the Court of Session and compel the Lord Advocate to issue detailed guidance on the law around assisted dying as exists in England.

“This would have been a fitting legacy after Gordon’s long legal fight and an opportunity for this issue to be.”

Currently, Scotland lacks detailed guidelines such as those that exist in England and Wales to help inform family and friends how to interpret the law around assisted dying.

A vote in 2015 at Holyrood saw a bill on assisted suicide originally brought forward by the late MSP Margo MacDonald defeated by a wide majority .

Scott said the court’s decision was a “slap in the face” to those seeking a choice and, in particular, to Mr Ross.

He said: “At the moment anyone helping a friend or loved one, who is suffering intolerably, to die faces a charge of murder or manslaughter. Gordon’s family are considering their position regarding the legal aspects of this decision but Fate and the Humanist Society Scotland will continue Gordon’s fight to have the law changed.”

Picture courtesy of Carolyn