Life and death

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The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton’s article (Perspective, 27 November) was balanced and moderate of language but the thrust of her argument could well have reached the opposite conclusion.

Yes, there are tensions between personal autonomy and family and community interests. Yes, no-one is truly autonomous and individual decisions do have consequences.

But it doesn’t follow that family and community would be opposed to an individual’s desire to seek assistance in ending their life. Such an interest could just as well be a deep compassion for the suffering of that individual.

But the real essence of her argument is, once embarked on changing the status quo, individuals and society could slip into accepting assisted suicide as a duty. And it must be true that this would be a possibility if appropriate safeguards were not in place.

What this argument comes down to is belief in a principle and if there is no meeting of minds on this principle then no amount of debate will produce any generally accepted policy.

The principle is that of an individual’s priority right to have a final say on when to end their own life. The Rev Foster-Fulton’s position appears to be it is in the best interest of society for an individual to suffer than to risk the possible consequences. We should “love sacrificially”, whatever that means. Perhaps we should accept loving a person also means accepting an end to suffering.

Of course, even if one accepts the principle of autonomy, the issues are then under what conditions and in what manner should the wider interests of society be safeguarded.

Of course, the individual and their families should be given all due care and counselling. And we should require independent assessment and adjudication.

The possibility of undue pressure from third parties with an interest is always a possibility. But this is also true in other walks of life, and society seeks to protect vulnerable people.

But great care needs to be applied to ensure the balance is just and compassionate.

Even if one does not accept the principle, surely there is room for a caring society to allow a person to put an end to their suffering at a time of their own choosing.

Edward Link

High Road
Auchtermuchty, Fife

I DON’T think I have ever read such a fatuous attempt to justify a totally untenable position as the article by Sally Foster-Fulton on “Why the Kirk opposes an assisted suicide law” (Perspective, 27 November). It is full of the contradictions and general flim-flam so beloved of the anti-euthanasia campaigners.

If the Kirk had the “deep concern for others and reverence for human flourishing” which she claims, it would have regard to the wishes of those elderly people who feel that their lives are so degraded by suffering that they do not wish to continue to be kept alive, often by totally ­artificial means. It would also have regard to the feelings of the families of such elderly people who do not wish to see their nearest and dearest being forced to endure such suffering.

Forcing people who are terminally ill, who have lost all will or desire to live and who wish for nothing more than to slip away peacefully, to persist is nothing short of medieval, barbaric cruelty.

Modern medical science performs miracles in restoring the sick and injured to happy and fulfilling lives. It also preserves many of us far beyond what would otherwise be our normal lifespan. It should be allowed to show the same compassion and mercy to terminally ill human beings that it shows to sick animals – a peaceful, dignified, quick and merciful death.

Other countries, every bit as civilised and advanced as ours, have laws which permit this. Why does this country always drag its feet?

JED Cormie

Craiglea Road