Assisted dying advocates do not devalue lives - Readers' Letters

In his recent article (“Assisted suicide is at odds with Western Christian tradition of human rights”, Scotsman, 27 July) Murdo Fraser argues against proposals to legalise assisted dying in Scotland.

He says that "Much opposition to changing the law in this area has been led by campaigners for the rights of the disabled”, and “[t]heir worry is that if the principle is accepted that some lives are regarded as less valued than others, to the extent that they are not even worth living, what does that mean for the human rights of those who are seriously disabled?” He argues that assisted dying is, for these reasons, at odds with the Western tradition of human rights.

Mr Fraser is wrong on all points. The most recent survey of UK disability rights organisations shows that the vast majority either take a neutral stance on assisted dying or hold no public position at all, presumably because each disabled person – like everyone – has the right to settle these important ethical questions for themselves.

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Moreover, advocates of assisted dying absolutely reject the idea that some lives are less valuable than others. The central principle is equal respect for all lives. That means recognising that each individual has the right to decide for themselves what makes their life worth living, and accepting their decision if (in the face of terminal illness) they judge that an assisted death is right for them. Respect for individual autonomy is a core part of our moral tradition. Why does Mr Fraser ignore it?

It is opponents of assisted dying like Mr Fraser who devalue disabled lives by ignoring their diverse voices, and refusing to respect their equal capacity for the central and abiding human value of autonomy.

Prof Ben Colburn, University of Glasgow

Human rights

Murdo Fraser is technically correct that Christianity has greatly influenced equality and human rights in western society, but perhaps not in the way he and author Tom Holland suppose.

Rather than Christian teaching itself, it has been the counter reactions to Christian thinking and dogma down the centuries that has shaped it, and in particular the Enlightenment.

Even the most cursory glance at Christian history shows how Christian thought has impeded human rights and equality for many individuals and groups, revealing progroms, anti-Semitism, civil wars, torture, murder, genocides, witch hunts, book and other arts bans, and blasphemy laws that have attracted capital punishments and restrictions on liberty and freedom of expression.

Christianity has impeded and continues to this day to campaign against the rights of women, children and gay people, and in the equality stakes seeks special treatment for itself so that it may discriminate and practice prejudice against others while demanding it is free from discrimination and prejudice itself.

Thankfully, wiser and more enlightened counsels continue to prevail, in spite of continued attempts by Christians of every hue to drag us back in time.

I think Messrs Fraser and Holland are unable to see the wood for the trees.

Alistair McBay, Methven, Perth and Kinross

Above the law

Andrew Dodds speaks for the majority when he lambasts a cyclist for breaking every rule in the Highway Code (Letters, 27 July). "What's the Highway Code?'' many cyclists would ask.

Cyclists blatantly cycle on the pavement and use their phones to text whilst on the road. Cyclists should be required to have a helmet, flashing lights, insurance, pass a test, have a visible identification number and pay to use the roads and specialist cycle facilities. Oh sorry, I forgot they are above the law since they are "saving the planet".

Just wait for the chaos when e-scooters are allowed on our roads by stupid politicians who believed the green lobby that they will reduce vehicle emissions but forget that needless deaths and injuries will be the outcome.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothian

‘Free’ bus tickets

The headline in the Scotsman said "Free bus travel for under-22s from January" (27 July).

Is it perhaps time for us to stop referring to this as "free" and saying it's "taxpayer funded" instead? That's where the money comes from. It's not due to government generosity. The notion that the public are getting something for "free" is simply wrong. The taxpayers will now be footing the bill for bus users younger than 22 and older than 60.

I'd like to see specific public targets for a corresponding reduction in car usage that need to be achieved to maintain this perk in the coming years. If those aren't achieved then serious questions would have to be asked on the return we're getting on our money and why we should keep funding it.

J Lewis, Edinburgh

Too high a price

Rishi Sunak is reported to have baulked at the UK's prospect of the £1.3 trillion, and, in long-term reality, much higher, cost of the planned decarbonisation.

The PM believes it's worth the expenditure to make us "world leaders" in the field of net zero carbon dioxide output though, in truth, no other nations would take a blind bit of notice and no useful purpose be served.

The nation's debts are vast from costs of the Covid pandemic. Our output of manmade CO2 in greenhouse gases is negligible at 0.0000065 per cent of the planet's total output. To decarbonise would simply compound our ruin and very likely lead us into bankruptcy.

Decarbonisation would be ruinous not only financially but in social security: when the damage to our normal lifestyles becomes clear gross civil disorder is inevitable.

We already have an inkling of the costly and unsatisfactory substitutes for all present engines using fossil fuels for energy generation for home and industry. All substitutes, from electric cars to wind turbines are, relatively, unsatisfactory and much more expensive and unreliable, some idiotically so.

Remembering that all these costs, risks and and effort can achieve absolutely nothing useful, Rishi Sunak is resoundingly in the right. The PM must listen and radically change tack or we all face utter disaster.

Charles Wardrop, Perth, Perth and Kinross

Let’s twist again

On my annual excursion into the capital I was gazing in disgust at the replacement of one eyesore with another but was delighted when a fellow observer described the St James Centre as an excrescence crowned by a twisted turd: succinct, apt and vernacular. Come friendly bomb and drop on... the city council's planning department.

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Vaccinated travel

The Covid-19 rules for travellers are changing all the time to react to new developments in the pandemic and we have got used to this.

We, the public have shown a lot of empathy and restricted ourselves to protect our fellow citizen. But when the rules start to make no sense, there is danger that people become more reluctant to follow them.

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Fully-vaccinated US and EU travellers ‘to be allowed into England without quaran...

Allowing British travellers who are fully vaccinated to avoid quarantine when returning home was probably a present to all living in the UK to enjoy themselves on their holidays in Europe and beyond before lockdowns start again in the autumn. But if British citizens have been vaccinated in the EU with the same fully licensed vaccines as used in the UK, they must spend ten days in quarantine.

Epidemiologically, this makes no sense. Does the UK not trust the EU about their vaccination protocol or is this just a political game? The infection risk resulting from those vaccinated in the EU and in the UK would be the same.

I am a British citizen and I would like to travel back to my home in Aberdeen and would like to be treated as anybody else in the UK who has been fully vaccinated – get tested and not be required to quarantine for ten days.

Prof Jorg Feldmann, University of Graz, Austria

Political games

What a stushie over statistics and semantics! Fewer young people than expected have taken up the offer of vaccination and the opposition parties are in triumphant “Gotcha!” mode – “target missed, promise broken, spin,” etc.

For my part I find this gleeful scoring of party political points over a setback in the effort to control a pandemic which has brought death to many and grief to many more, somewhat distasteful.

To be fair the Scottish Conservative spokesperson has advanced “a more targeted marketing campaign” as a solution. I’m afraid this suggested to my mind billboards featuring Jackie Baillie in full Lord Kitchener (or Aunt Lydia) mode pointing a peremptory finger with the slogan “Your Country Needs You to get DOUBLE VAXXED”.

The current consensus seems to be that the virus cannot be eliminated and the best way to tackle this situation is through general vaccination. Making it compulsory would be logical but difficult, as well as giving the civil rights lobby hysterics.

However demanding vaccination as a condition for appropriate employments and proof of it for entry into places of public resort, for instance, would go some way towards the ideal, and should be something all parties could unite on.

Partisan politics will only help the virus.

S Beck, Edinburgh

A lot of hot air

The Met Office spokesman quoted on weather warnings was wrong to claim that “warmer air can hold more water” (Scotsman, 27 July). Unfortunately this is a persistent myth.

Air has absolutely no holding capacity at all and the amount of water vapour in it is not necessarily a function of the air temperature Water vapour behaves independently of the other gas molecules around it and responds to the ambient temperature, changing phase from liquid to gas or vice versa as the conditions demand.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

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