Opponents of assisted suicide routinely omit to mention that it is to be entirely voluntary, as though “assisted suicide” were merely a bland euphemism for mad Harold Shipman-type doctors wandering the wards bumping off people at will.
Martin Conroy (Letters, 7 February) is true to form in omitting to mention the entirely voluntary nature of assisted suicide. In addition, his claim that assisted suicide is at odds with the principle that all human beings have inherent worth involves a gross distortion of the idea of human worth. There cannot be a plausible conception of inherent human worth that requires someone dying in agony to be told, “Oh, no, there can be no release for you, no matter how much you want it. Because of inherent human worth you have to suck up the last dregs of suffering.”
Mr Conroy’s letter displays another favourite, misleading ploy of opponents of assisted suicide when he claims, “We must never let suicide be a legitimate response to life’s problems.” He conflates assisted suicide for those dying in suffering with suicide as a response to daily problems. There is a morally significant difference here. To, for instance, a teenager considering suicide because their boyfriend or girlfriend has dumped them, we can say, “You have all your life ahead of you. New people and interests will come into your life.” We cannot truthfully say that to someone dying in agony. I do not know of any supporters of the current Holyrood Bill who seek to promote suicide as the answer to life’s problems. It is for those who choose it and only for them, a solution to one of death’s problems.
I have been reflecting on The Scotsman’s coverage of ‘evidence’ given to the Parliamentary committees by Dr Saunders of Care Not Killing and his reference to Harold Shipman. I suggest that if assisted suicide was enabled within a regulatory framework, the opposite to his concerns would be the case.
Dr Shipman was abetted by the illegality, which meant his actions were secret. If the law was changed to legitimise assisted suicide, it would allow the General Medical Council to establish procedures for doctors which would be public and would monitor interplay between doctor and patient from the earliest point a terminal illness was diagnosed. Such a dialogue would be aided by the current realities whereby most patients are seen not just by one doctor but by several in a team – a patient’s attitude to assisted dying would be known to several medics, and monitored. A change in the law would not bring negativities as emotionally hyped by Dr Saunders and others – it would protect and enhance the true provision of “care” for every patient.