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Adults With Incapacity Code
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has announced her intention to amend last year's code of practice in relation to Part 5 of the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, in order to reinstate a specific reference to food and fluids.
The code of practice issued at the time of the 2000 Act ensured that any health professional who acted in any way to deny food or fluids to a patient with euthanasia in mind would be acting against the law.
Ms Sturgeon has received a letter on the matter from Michael Matheson MSP, who played a prominent role in ensuring that this specific reassurance was included in this section of the Code, under the term of the previous administration.
Paragraph 2.65 of the revised code of practice - issued in 2008 - states clearly that the Act does not affect the existing criminal law whereby anybody who acted in such a way towards another person as to unlawfully cause or hasten his or her death would be guilty of a criminal offence, and the Act does not change the law in relation to euthanasia which remains a criminal act under Scots Law.
Nonetheless, Mr Matheson's letter indicates that he has received representations from interested parties expressing concern that the specific reference to food and fluids does not now appear in the same section of the revised code of practice.
While the code of practice does not change existing legal provisions, Ministers intend to reinstate the specific reference to food and fluids by laying a revised Code before Parliament, in order to provide complete reassurance on the matter. The Code is not mandatory but may be referred to by the courts.
Ms Sturgeon said:
"The code of practice clearly states that the Act does not affect the existing criminal law, and neither does the Act change the law in relation to euthanasia which remains a criminal act under Scots Law. Clearly, there can be no doubt about the legal position. Nonetheless, in response to representations, Ministers intend to reinstate the specific reference to food and fluids in order to provide complete reassurance and put the matter beyond doubt."