Assisted dying

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The Assisted Suicide Bill which is before the Scottish Parliament proposes to make it legal for doctors to help terminally ill patients in specified situations to end their lives.

It has stirred up much debate, as seen in the Letters page of The Scotsman and elsewhere.

One notable feature of the debate is that much of the opposition to assisted suicide comes from people with strong religious views, whereas many supporters for it are non-religious, whether Humanists, atheists or agnostics.

However, when you consider their core beliefs, the way that the two sides have lined up on this issue is quite paradoxical.

Religious people believe in an afterlife and in a merciful God. Therefore, if someone is dying from a relentless terminal illness and decides to end it all in order to escape from that intolerable situation, they are merely starting their afterlife somewhat sooner than expected.

Committing suicide is a sin, according to theologians, but a merciful God will surely understand the desperation of the terminally ill patient and will forgive them for that sin.

All things considered, religious people should have no problem supporting the Assisted Suicide Bill.

By contrast, Humanists and atheists believe that this life is the only life we have; there is no second helping for them. So it follows that for them this life is infinitely precious and we should not waste a drop of it because there is no more.

Even the patient dying from a relentless terminal illness should recognise that whatever little bit of time they have left is precious and irreplaceable, so they should not throw any of it away.

Therefore Humanists and atheists should oppose this bill because it will encourage terminally ill patients to make a bad decision which is irrevocable.

Clearly, the religious believers should swap sides with the Humanists and atheists. The opposers should become supporters and vice-versa. But I doubt if it will happen.

Both sides would have to eat the same amount of humble pie, but it is still a dish that most people prefer to avoid.

So both lines of supporters and opposers will probably stay as they are, even though they know in their hearts that they are on the wrong side.

Les Reid

Morton Street

Edinburgh

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