Suicide concerns

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In response to Peter Warren’s criticisms (Letters, 20 December) of the grounds of my opposition to Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide Bill, I would make the following points.

Firstly, the criteria for eligibility are so vague that they are capable of wide interpretation. I intend to make a detailed crit­ique of these when the relevant parliamentary committee calls for written evidence.

Phrases such as “illnesses which are either terminal or life-shortening” and “conditions which are progressive and either terminal or life-shortening” give plenty of scope for interpretation, especially when they are qualified by “for the patient”.

This is reinforced by the proviso that the person’s quality of life is unacceptable to that 
person. The medical opinions required seem more like a rubber stamp than a rigorous assessment. There is no mention of psychiatric assessment.

Secondly, as to evidence of extension of criteria for assisted suicide in Oregon and Switzerland and euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium, I refer Mr Warren to the official statistics available, plus reviews in medical journals and national newspapers. A number of those who have undergone assisted suicide in Dignitas in Zurich had conditions which were neither life-shortening nor terminal. This extension is not provided for in the law, but is due to altered attitudes in the medical profession and in society.

Once the laws against the deliberate ending of human life are loosened, it is difficult to control practice. If this bill were to become law, there are several campaign groups who will continue to lobby for full euthanasia.

As a doctor, I am glad that the majority of the medial profession, as represented by the BMA, is opposed to a change in the law. What we need is better
long-term and palliative care for all those who need them.

(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald

Craiglockhart Grove

Edinburgh

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