Assisted dying

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Once again, Paul Brownsey (Letters, 24 April) fails to acknowledge the collateral damage that would be caused by a patient opting for assisted suicide should it be legalised.

Mr Brownsey also suggests that the reason for choosing assisted suicide would be due to “great suffering”.

As I have said before, if we look to Oregon, the vast majority of those choosing to kill themselves are doing so for existential reasons rather than on the basis of real medical symptoms. The main reasons for taking one’s life in Oregon in 2013 were “loss of autonomy”, being “less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable” and “loss of dignity”.

Furthermore, if we examine the developments in the Netherlands in detail, there is good reason to wonder whether things will be any different if euthanasia is legalised in other countries that are talking about it.

The most important reason why there is no self-determination, no “right to die”, is that those who wish to die like this need a physician. Active termination of life requires a doctor who will administer the drugs in a lethal dose.

In the case of assisted suicide the patient may be the one who takes the drugs, but he still needs a doctor to provide them.

The patient who wants to die autonomously needs a doctor. This automatically restricts his autonomy. Unlike the patient, who dies, the physician has to answer for his actions afterwards.

Dutch euthanasia practice does not rest on the patient’s self-determination – it rests on the doctor’s pity.

Self-determination is a far cry from pity. One could even say pity is the opposite of self-determination. Pity, in essence, is patronising. No one should ignore or conceal the Dutch example.

By substituting the word “compassion”, many advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide hope to avoid the old-fashioned patronising attitude conveyed by the word “pity”. Assisted suicide is misguided compassion, and a risky proposition for a civilised society. Let’s not go there.

Martin Conroy


East Lothian