The letter against assisted suicide from John Deighan, of the Catholic Parliamentary Office (Letters, 25 October), is remarkable for something that it leaves out.
From phrases like “killing someone” and “life to be deliberately ended” one might think that the Bill currently before Holyrood would license doctors or others to stalk the wards, saying: “This one, that one and that one – all to be killed before lunch.” He never mentions the fact that assisted suicide, as the Bill would legalise it, is to be entirely voluntary, to take place only when sought and repeatedly consented to by a dying and suffering patient. One understands from other reports that the Roman Catholic Church is a top-down organisation not greatly tolerant of individual choice in its own ranks, but it is sad that it apparently seeks to circumscribe the autonomy, in the matter of their own death, of those who are not Roman Catholics.
Someone may suggest that although at the start assisted suicide will be available only when requested by the dying patient, various presumptions and working practices will develop such that patients will be hurried to their deaths without their request and consent. Such scaremongering is unwarranted. In the sphere of sexual ethics and the law relating to sex we have seen in recent years increasingly determined and sophisticated attempts (including a change in the legal definition of rape) to ensure that those participating in sex give their full and genuine consent.
There is no reason not to expect similar determination and sophistication in ensuring that assisted suicide is genuinely chosen by the patient.
The Assisted Dying Bill is due to be debated for the second time on 7 November so I guess the final desperate attempts to discredit the intentions of this Bill were also inevitable.
I have noted some of the letters to the Editor, namely from Martin Conroy (23 October), Richard Lucas (24 October) and John Deighan (25 October) who oppose the concept, let alone the Bill, of assisted dying.
Mr Conroy makes the same error of logic that the religious make when trying to claim an absolute morality based on an ancient script. There is no absolute morality, just as there is no objective life. Life is lived by the person living it and it is his to live unless, of course, he needs help from the medical profession in ending it. It is most certainly a subjective decision about a subjectively lived life.
I would like to point out to Mr Deighan that the Hippocratic Oath that some (by no means all) medical and other practitioners take is nothing like the Hippocratic Oath of antiquity. It has been modified and truncated as medical knowledge grows and societies develop.
Moreover, I would contend that it is indeed doing harm to a person’s self-determination and self-respect by refusing to assist in a death so wanted by that person.
The other point is that this issue often has little to do with pain. When life becomes intolerable to the person living it and who requests help in ending it, then it most certainly is doing harm to refuse assistance.
Please understand that in those countries and states where voluntary euthanasia is legal (and that in itself is different from assisted dying), there has not been a mass move towards it. People, by and large, want to live. Most will. However, those in the minority who do want assisted death should be able to access it without the medical profession being held as criminals.