Assisted dying

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Martin Conroy (Letters, 23 
October) writes: “In the radically individualist philosophy behind the case for assisted suicide, there is no objective value placed on life; the only value is the one I judge myself to have and the premise is that a life loses value the closer it is to death.”

This is erroneous in a number of ways. First, do we need to worry whether life has what he calls “objective value”?

All that is necessary is that people should care about life. Second, there is no inconsistency in holding that life has objective value and that, in certain circumstances, other objective values have greater importance.

To say that something has 
objective value is not to say that it must invariably be valued over everything else.

Third, Mr Conroy ducks the question of who is to decide whether life has objective value, what that objective value is and how it should be weighed against other valuable things.

To decry “the radically
 individualist philosophy behind the case for assisted suicide” 
is in effect to seek to privilege and empower some individuals, perhaps those in charge in 
religious organisations, to dictate the terms of life for other individuals.

That is a manifest denial of freedom.

Paul Brownsey

Larchfield Road

Glasgow

The organisation Care Not Killing describes the Assisted Suicide Bill as unnecessary, uncontrollable and unethical (your report, 22 October).

In doing so it is wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Unnecessary? Research shows that each year in Scotland at least 60 terminally ill patients take their own lives on account of unendurable suffering, not infrequently being forced into violent means in order to do so.

The bill would do away with those agonies.

It would spare both the individual and those who love them such a wretched dilemma.

Uncontrollable? Experience elsewhere, notably Oregon, shows that it is perfectly feasible to enact such legislation without a wholesale massacre of the innocents ensuing.

Since 1997, 1,173 individuals have received prescriptions to allow them to end their lives with dignity. It is noteworthy that only 752 then did so.

The majority of the remainder were comforted by knowing that they were in control of their fate.

Unethical? There is substantial moral equivalence in this debate and, in light of the available evidence, it is perfectly legitimate to arrive at differing conclusions, based upon one’s experience and world view.

Neither side has a monopoly on morality. Claiming the ethical high ground only demeans the claimant.

(Dr) Bob Scott

Humanist Society 
Scotland

Balmaha Road

Drymen

In support of the Assisted Suicide Bill, Patrick Harvie states his underlying principle that “a life belongs to the person living it”.

Is that even a coherent statement? Is a sentence in the form X belongs to X meaningful?

What does it mean to say that something belongs to itself? Even if it is intelligible, the implications are far from obvious.

My car belongs to me, but that doesn’t mean I can do with it as I please. So, it is not at all clear that Patrick’s fundamental principle is coherent, and its implications are unclear.

His central principle is doubly flawed, hardly a solid foundation on which to build a case for allowing assisted suicide.

The documentation relating to the bill does not discuss the serious moral issue of taking life at all, but other issues, more reflective of contemporary moral priorities, are addressed. So, never mind about the killing and helping with killing people, let’s get to the weightier issues…

Don’t worry: the bill does not have a negative impact on “equal opportunities.”

Though the elderly would be over-represented in assisted suicide statistics, we are reassured that assisted suicide would be equally available to everyone over 16.

If your main concern is that there would be a gender imbalance in assisted suicide cases, fear not: the evidence from abroad is that men and women are helped to die in roughly equal numbers.

Assisted suicide is positively beneficial when it comes to benefitting people with low incomes, as going to Switzerland to be fleeced and killed at a Dignitas “clinic” can be prohibitively expensive.

Needless to say, the bill is also heralded as “enhancing human rights.”

Richard Lucas

Broomyknowe

Edinburgh