Start talking about end of life options

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I AM a relatively fit, for my age, 78-year-old and have decided that when I am no longer able to look after myself, I do not wish to continue this life (Letters, 22 February).

I would find it degrading to have to be looked after like a child. Also, having seen the stress caused in the marriage of a couple having to look after an elderly parent, I have no wish to impose this on any relatives.

I am not religious and believe it is my life and my decision. With the ever- increasing numbers of people living longer, this will put a greater tax burden on the next generation. In my opinion the current NHS, on which I make considerable demands, and the welfare state will soon reach the point where they are unsustainable.

I have recently written to many MSPs asking them to support MSP Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, and find that most are not in favour of the Bill.

To those who do not support the Bill, I would ask: If the Bill fails how do you suggest that I, and people who think like me, should end our lives?

Should I jump off a high building, electrocute myself, throw myself down a flight of stairs or can you think of a better method than Margo MacDonald’s Bill?

bill morrison

Caroline Gardens

Edinburgh

The Rev Dr Donald M. MacDonald thinks (Letters, 22 February) that I am wrong to suggest that a patient who has the option (at present legal) of refusing treatment is just as vulnerable to financial pressures as a patient with the option (at present illegal) of assisted suicide. His reason for saying this appears to be that the patient who refused treatment would normally receive palliative care, so that refusing care would not be pressed upon him or her as a cheap option.

However, this overlooks the fact that medical treatment is usually expensive, and that treatment plus palliative care would be more expensive than the patient’s refusal of treatment, with palliative care alone being given.

So even within what is at present legal, there is a financial incentive to press upon a vulnerable patient the option of refusing treatment.

So again I ask Rev Dr MacDonald whether he has any evidence that patients are at present being pressed to refuse treatment and receive palliative care alone, rather than opting for expensive treatment with the prospect of palliative care if it fails.

If he hasn’t, what reason has he to suppose that adding the option of assisted suicide would bring upon the vulnerable the pressure we all agree is to be avoided?

PAUL BROWNSEY

Larchfield Road

Glasgow

Tiffany Jenkins (your report, 22 February) wrote that those who commit suicide in the UK are disproportionately male.

This is long-standing in many other countries too. Females, however, are reportedly far more likely to attempt to kill themselves.

Of the well over 100,000 people of both genders and all ages who attempt suicide, most largely recover, but not necessarily fully and some end up permanently impaired, physically and mentally. There have been some 5,000 suicides in the UK every year for many decades. For comparison, currently the number of traffic-related deaths is under 2,000 yearly, having fallen from 8,000 not so long ago.

Why people kill themselves is, of course, complex; every case is probably unique.

Giving suicidally-inclined people support with their perceived crushing problems has had increasing success over the years. A smaller percentage of the population go ahead with suicide. How much more can be done, though, is unclear.

So many need help, yet so much is left to the voluntary sector such as the Samaritans. Governments must do more directly.

JOE DARBY

Dingwall

Ross-shire