Richard Lucas expresses concern that people would “feel pressurised to die if assisted suicide were legalised” (Letters, 17 January).
Pressure is not the same as compulsion, pressure can normally be resisted, and in any case the Assisted Suicide Bill incorporates measures to ensure that someone opting for assisted suicide is not succumbing to pressure but that their decision represents their settled will in accordance with their long-term values.
It is to be wished that those on Mr Lucas’s side of the debate would restrict themselves to pressure; would, that is, restrict themselves to counselling someone considering assisted suicide, “Don’t do it! This terminal suffering you think is pointless is in fact worthwhile! God hasn’t yet decided it’s time for you to die, so you must bear still more of this suffering, even though the life that remains to you is nothing but suffering. And your continuing agony will bring peace of mind to other people who are afraid of being bumped off against their will.”
No, they don’t confine themselves to pressure. They want compulsion. They want those in terminal agony to be forced by law to continue to suffer until death supervenes naturally, denied the option of assisted suicide.
Further, it is already legal to refuse treatment. If the spectre of “pressure” raised by Mr Lucas and those like-minded represents reality, then presumably pressure is being brought now and people are urging sick patients, “Say no to the operation because our Janice has just got married and needs your house.” So to be consistent, Mr Lucas should be demanding that the terminally ill should be treated against their will. His position requires that Debbie Purdy should not have been allowed to starve herself to death, in order that she could be made to swallow down still more of the dregs of terminal suffering.
Richard Lucas (Letters, 17 January) raises the theoretical spectre of how the vulnerable would be exploited, were our MSPs to vote in favour of the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. Such an alarming possibility is difficult to assuage, at least in theory.
Fortunately, we can draw upon practical experience from elsewhere, notably Oregon, whose Death with Dignity Act is close to what is proposed here, to banish this apparition. Seventeen years of operation shows no sign that the vulnerable in society are being exploited. On the contrary, the disabled, ethnic minorities, the very old and the less well-off are disproportionately under-represented, compared to what might be expected on a pro-rata basis.
Richard Lucas’s unswerving opposition to individuals having any choice in managing their death is well known.
It may be surprising to learn that many of us who are in favour of the Bill are not so sure of our position. If convincing evidence emerged showing that such legislation cannot safely operate in practice, then I would change my mind. However, this is not the case and the bill will continue to receive my support.
I wonder what evidence might change Mr Lucas’s mind?
Dr Bob Scott
Humanist Society Scotland