What a strange society we live in if people think killing a sick and vulnerable human being is the merciful and compassionate thing to do. A person who suffers is no less a person than one who doesn’t.
Some suffering in life will be unavoidable; it is part of the process of dying. But no-one should nowadays endure unbearable pain.
Britain is a world leader in hospices and palliative care. We need more, not fewer, of these. People who are suffering should be offered real choice – the choice not to suffer unnecessarily. Euthanasia does not solve that problem; it covers it up.
David Robertson, considering the right to die, has assembled false contrasts to argue that people have limited autonomy (Letters, 6 November). For sure, Mr Robertson did not choose to be born, and if he were to choose to break the law, he might be imprisoned with some loss of his autonomy.
But in other respects he has substantial autonomous rights, including an almost complete choice not to receive any sort of medical treatment that he did not wish.
His doctor does not have to hold his life sacred: she has an ethical obligation to respect Mr Robertson’s wish, if she were convinced that it was sincere.
This is nothing whatsoever to do with Christian rights (nor the false antitheses, pagan or material, that Mr Robertson uses to muddy the water), nor with the personal beliefs of doctors: they are obliged to follow ethical guidelines expected of their profession.
If they cannot, they have both the autonomy and the moral obligation to refer their patients to a doctor who can. Autonomy trumps most rights, if it does no harm to others.
(Dr) Gordon Drummond
Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer
Dept of Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine