The Sixth sense

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I am surprised that Professor Hugh McLachlan (Perspective, 19 December) should draw a ­distinction between “the ethics of the matter” and “the practical questions of whether euthanasia and assisted suicide should be permitted and, if so, in what ­specific circumstances”.

They cannot be so readily separated. He assumes, without rigorous supporting arguments, that euthanasia and assisted suicide can be ethically justified and then leaves the “practical questions” open for debate. Are ethical standards not to be ­applied to them?

Prof McLachlan seems to have an idiosyncratic version of Christianity, which has nothing to say about ethics or politics. He misinterprets the New Testament to support his views. However, both Jesus and Paul 
reaffirm the Ten Commandments, including the sixth, and give them a much deeper application than to merely the ­outward actions.

So reverence for human life, as made in God’s image, must be our starting point. Love for one’s neighbours demands that we do all we can to preserve life and reduce suffering by holistic care until death supervenes. His allusions to pacifism and vegetarianism are red herrings and have nothing to do with the issue.

Prof McLachlan is wrong to claim that “the debate does not revolve around the points alluded to” by Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, namely personal autonomy and human dignity.

These are two of the most common arguments used by proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

For example: “It’s my life and I have a right to end it when I want and to have help to do so if I am unable to,” and: “When I have lost my independence and dignity, I want to have my life ended on my terms in a dignified way.”

It is impossible in a short ­letter to answer all of Prof McLachlan’s points, but I hope I have said enough to stimulate further reflection on this serious issue. I believe there is a strong ethical case against assisted suicide and that it should not be legalised.

(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald

Craiglockhart Grove


How can Hugh McLachlan ­support his argument that questions of “assisted dying” are ­practical not ethical?

In the same sentence in which this is asserted he goes on to ask whether euthanasia and assisted suicide should be permitted.

Ellis Thorpe

Old Chapel Walk