24/01/2012 01:57 GMT | Updated 24/03/2012 05:12 GMT

Assisted Suicide - Margo MacDonald Tries Again To Get Bill Through Scottish Parliament

A fresh attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland is being launched today despite defeat just over a year ago.

Veteran politician Margo MacDonald, whose first bid fell in a free vote, argues there is consistent support among the public.

Ms MacDonald, Holyrood's only independent MSP, will set out a new consultation at the official launch inside the Scottish Parliament.

Changes to the previous proposal are expected to cover qualifying conditions and whether assisted suicide should be administered by a physician or by the patient.

Under her plan, Scotland would become the first part of Britain to change the law, which currently leaves Scots open to prosecution for culpable homicide.

Ms MacDonald said: "Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I've received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees."

The launch comes just days after a report called for doctors to be given the right to be able to help terminally-ill people with less than a year left to live to kill themselves.

The year-long Commission on Assisted Dying said stringent safeguards must be in place to protect those who might not have the mental capacity to make such a choice, or who might be clinically depressed or experiencing pressure from friends or relatives.

The commission, chaired by former lord chancellor Lord Falconer, said that, under their proposals, a terminally-ill person would need to be able to take the medication themselves, as a clear sign their actions were voluntary.

Ms MacDonald, a former SNP politician who suffers from Parkinson's disease, failed to secure the necessary support to pass the controversial legislation at Holyrood in 2010, losing in a 16-85 free vote.

The End of Life Assistance Bill had been considered by a specially-convened committee, which did not support the general principles.

The legislation set out that anyone aged over 16 could request help to die. The person would have to be diagnosed as terminally ill and find life intolerable.

A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.

Assisted suicide is a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.