Blinkered view on suicide bill is out of line

Alan Hinnrichs (Letters, 22 January) lacks scholarly grace in his professed support for Margo MacDonald's assisted suicide bill when he refers to "religious cranks".

It is worth noting that the British Medical Association does not support legalising assisted suicide. And Dr Calum MacKellar, director of research at the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, claims: "Assisted suicide is unnecessary since physical suffering can now be adequately alleviated in all but the rarest cases by appropriate palliative care."

Ms MacDonald is undoubtedly moved by compassion, as are many others who advocate legalising assisted suicide and/or euthanasia. However, many, if not most, folk oppose such a bill and are equally moved by compassion. People are entitled to their view, but surely there is no need to impugn or castigate those who hold a position which differs from one's own.

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Given human nature's propensity to push the boundaries, there are grave risks in legalising ending life with medical help. At first there would be safeguards, as with abortion following the 1967 act, and assisted suicide would be closely monitored. But eventually, like abortion, it could become virtually available on demand.

The beginning of life is now a bit dodgy and there is a risk that the end of life could become a bit dodgy. For those of faith and many of no faith who are committed to the sanctity of life, it would be a step too far to arbitrate on drawing life to a conclusion by collusion.


Hamilton Avenue

Tayport, Fife

As a former GP in Edinburgh and Lothian for nearly 30 years, I fully support Margo MacDonald's bill on assisted dying. I know skilled palliative care meets the needs of the great majority of terminally ill patients, but even with such care, there are some patients who fear having to endure their inevitable decline with its accompanying symptoms, dependency and loss of control over their circumstances. Ms MacDonald's bill allows these patients to retain a measure of control over their own fate.

The knowledge that this choice was available would enable these patients to face terminal illness with equanimity and peace of mind, whether or not they finally opted for assisted dying.

While the British Medical Association officially opposes assisted dying, it has never balloted its members on the issue and so cannot speak with confidence on their views.


Albert Terrace


Undoubtedly, someone who can bear giving their date of death to family and friends must be pretty desperate, and for that reason alone the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill introduced by Margo MacDonald is an important, modern step forward in tackling real and perceived concerns that many people have about going through an undignified, painful process of dying, due to severe physical incapacity.

But will every such death always be undignified and painful? I think not, and it is of the utmost importance that the new law does not allow current protection to the vulnerable in our society to slip. Nor should suicide legislation be allowed to muddy the waters of advanced medical science and encourage premature deaths due to a lack of understanding of the course of a particular illness or the increasing availability of pain-free palliative care.


Ferryhills Road

North Queensferry, Fife