It is difficult to know how to respond to Hugh Reilly’s characteristically provocative piece, “A dignified end to life” (Perspective, 3 June). For someone who claims to “place faith in reason and logic”, he shows a conspicuous lack of rigorous reasoning.
Without knowing the dose of morphine administered, he has no basis for concluding that the death of his father was due to clandestine euthanasia.
I am aware that a few GPs, usually retired, claim to have done such things occasionally, but there is no evidence that this practice is widespread. It would rightly be illegal. The 1961 Suicide Act, which makes it a crime to assist a suicide, does not apply in Scotland. Any case would be brought under the homicide laws.
It is a travesty of the position of those who oppose any form of euthanasia to describe them as “those who revel in the sight of unmentionable human suffering”. Christians, for instance, have been at the forefront of the palliative care movement, the aim of which is to relieve suffering by all-round care which eases the experience of dying both for patient and family.
Mr Reilly says he wants to be treated like a dog. I fail to see how putting someone down like a dog increases human dignity. In the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been practised for many years, infants with congenital abnormalities are now being euthanised.
To apply Mr Reilly’s figure, is this like drowning unwanted puppies, a practice his ex-crofter former colleague would no doubt be familiar with?
While it is possible to lose our subjective human dignity, it is impossible for us to lose our inherent human dignity.
I believe our dignity and the safety of those more vulnerable than ourselves are best served by giving and receiving care right up to the end of life.
The moment we decide our lives are no longer worth living, we invite society to look at others in similar situations in the same light and thus put their lives at risk. This is especially so with an ageing population, financial pressure on the health and social services and a fragmented society. I hope Mr Reilly’s bark is worse than his bite!
(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald
Like Hugh Reilly, I am a former chalkie and have regularly enjoyed his witty, incisive contributions to your columns. However, his article on the so-called right to die reads as if written when his glass was almost empty, never mind half full.
It is also another example of the arrogant zeitgeist of today that if there is a problem in society it can be solved by ever more legislation.
To subscribe to the grinding bleakness of assisted suicide – an oxymoron if ever there was one – is Mr Reilly’s prerogative.
What is not, however, is the ignorant insulting reference to Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews as “cult-followers” and “trekkies”.
People who have faith also have minds of their own on this or any other subject. Get over it, Mr Reilly.