The Rev Dr Donald M MacDonald (Letters, 25 July) says that to emphasise, as I do, that assisted dying would be available only at the request of the dying person is to assume that “we are autonomous individuals whose decisions affect only ourselves. This downplays or ignores the fact that we are beings who exist in a web of interdependent relationships. Our decisions do affect others.”
No sensible person can deny that our decisions affect others, but the crucial question is whether this fact is sufficient to justify the denial of assisted death, in carefully specified circumstances, to those crying out for it in terminal and unassuageable pain.
Further, when reflecting on the fact that our decisions affect others, Mr MacDonald might care to reflect that his decision to campaign against assisted dying for those in unassuageable pain means that, if the current bills do not become law, he will bear some responsibility for the continuance of great pain which could have been avoided at no harm to anyone else.
To deny a particular decision to some people is usually to subject them to the decisions of others. He says: “If I decide that, because of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, my life is no longer worth living, this tacitly passes the same judgment on others in a similar state.”
It does nothing of the kind. There is absolutely no contradiction in saying: “My life is not worth living, but I know far too little about another’s life, wishes, capacities, values and resources (both inner and outer) to make the same judgment about his.”
That is a decision for him to make. It is only a peculiar sort of arrogance, and failure of respect for the consciences of others, that would elevate one’s decision for oneself into a rule to be imposed on all.