Dangerous acts

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Paul Brownsey (Letters, 24 July) accuses those who oppose the legalisation of “assisted dying” of downplaying or ignoring the fact that, under the bills currently before both Westminster and Holyrood, this would be available only on the voluntary request of the dying person.

Therefore the question of any form of coercion is neatly avoided. So why all the fuss? This line of argument assumes that we are autonomous individuals whose decisions affect only ourselves. This is exemplified in the campaign slogan, “My life, my death, my choice”.

This downplays or ignores the fact that we are beings who
exist in a web of interdependent relationships. Our decisions do affect others.

First of all, the medical profession and the doctor-patient relationship would be altered radically, not to mention the effect on pharmacists and members of other caring professions.

Medical training would have to include training on the use of lethal drugs and possibly other means of causing death, as these are not specified in the bills.

Thus some form of euthanasia would become an accepted part of the medical landscape and just another treatment option.

Also our decisions will inevitably impinge on others in similar situations to ourselves.

If I decide that, because of my secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, my life is no longer worth living, this tacitly passes the same judgment on others in a similar state. If these bills were to become law, society’s attitude to people with long-term progressive illness would change and vulnerable people would be at risk.

It would be very difficult to assess the subtle forms of pressure, both internal and external, which may influence people to avail themselves of such a law.

These bills are poorly drafted, are capable of wide interpretation and do not provide meaningful safeguards.

They are wrong in principle and would be harmful in 
practice.

(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald

Craiglockhart Grove

Edinburgh

In agreeing with Martin 
Conroy’s concern that some folk perhaps find others’ lives worthless and can justify killing them (Letters, 23 July), one must nonetheless never lose sight of the fact that many people really are suffering terribly and wish to have a peaceful and dignified end instead of being maintained “artificially”.

Palliative and hospice care can go a long way in giving solace. Many sufferers, however, would not wish to receive it just to hang on for a few more weeks or months. Morphine is reportedly used extensively as the major painkiller, but increasing doses become less effective with time, shorten remaining life expectancy and in the end excess will lead to end of life.

If sufferers cannot at that stage go ahead of their own volition, although they explicitly desire to, should professional help be given?

Compassion in principle requires this but the legal situation remains sticky even in the light of the precedents set in other countries.

Joe Darby

Dingwall

Ross-shire

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