Euthansia danger

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Both Paul Brownsey and Dr John Cameron (Letters, 17 ­October) bring up the same old chestnuts in defence of ­euthanasia (euphemistically called assisted dying).

Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying was loaded with people already committed to the cause and its report must be read in that context. The doctrine of double effect is ­misrepresented by Mr Brownsey as being dishonest.

As for Dr Cameron’s insistence on “nature taking its merciful course”, does he really think it is moralistic medics who cause suffering rather than the disease which is killing the ­patient? It is because the course of nature is often not merciful that palliative medicine was ­developed.

Good medical practice recognises when curative measures are no longer effective and have become burdensome, but palliative care goes on to the end.

Dr Cameron may dismiss the “slippery slope” argument, but the fact remains that in countries where some form of euthanasia has been legalised, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, there has been not only a relentless increase in the reported number of cases of euthanasia, but a rise in the number of unreported cases and an incremental extension of the practice to cases not specified in the law (see the Lancet report of 11 July, 2012 about the Netherlands).

Legalising any form of euthanasia or assisted suicide would not only put vulnerable people at risk, but further hamper the extension of good palliative and end-of-life care to all who need it.

(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald

Edinburgh