Assisted suicide

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Of course individual dignity can be gained and lost. However, we cannot agree that embracing such “non-inherent dignity” would mean that “some individuals can have, for the first time in history, lives which no longer have any inherent worth or meaning” (“Assisted suicide is an assault on dignity, Dr Calum MacKeller, Friends of The Scotsman, 5 February). Nor indeed with his over-catastrophic remark that assisted suicide would “undermine the very basis of civilised society”.

It would not, and nor has it in the Netherlands, Belgium, Oregon, Washington State, Vermont and Quebec (all with laws which allow assisted suicide, euthanasia, or both).

It is nonsense to extrapolate from the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill that legalising assisted suicide would “no longer offer any robust arguments against ending the lives of non-conscious individuals who may be considered as having an inferior or unworthy quality of life”.

We hope never to experience such unrelieved suffering, and unrelieveable by all sensible means, that we would prefer to die sooner rather than later.

If we say, in full rational consciousness, and after proper reflection, that our dignity is such that we want an assisted death, that is none of Dr MacKellar’s business.

Our lives would still have plenty of worth and meaning, but not enough to remain alive, by our own standards, if not by those imposed on us by others against our wills.

Fortunately, because we have a very good NHS, and an excellent palliative care service, very few people in Scotland are likely to be in this unfortunate position.

However, if they are, they should surely have at least the option of an assisted death, and that is what the bill is all about.

(Dr) Charles Warlow

(Dr) Gillian 
MacDougall

On behalf of Doctors for Assisted Suicide

Edinburgh

Dr Calum MacKellar invokes the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in an attempt to support his argument that if the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill became law a society based on equal rights and the equal worth of all individuals cannot exist.

He quotes the preamble which refers to “the inherent dignity and… the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”.

The purpose of the Universal Declaration, human rights treaties and domestic human rights laws is to protect the individual from arbitrary interference in their lives by the state.

These include, among many others, the right to life, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination.

There is nothing in the Assisted Suicide Bill which empowers the state in Scotland to interfere arbitrarily in the lives of citizens.

All the bill does is empower the citizen in specific circumstances to avail themselves of help in order to end intolerable suffering.

That in no sense diminishes their human rights or their worth as human beings. MacKellar’s article sought to distort the true meaning of human rights.

Niall McCluskey

Criminal advocate

Walker Street

Edinburgh

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