Death with Dignity law offers third way

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act has been on the statute books since 1997. Death with Dignity is not assisted dying.

The act allows patients with a terminal illness, who meet carefully defined conditions, to get a lethal prescription. They can then self-administer the prescription to end their lives. This is not euthanasia.

The patient has to ask for the prescription twice over a 15-day period. The doctor who writes the prescription must consider the circumstances and mental state of the patient, including depression. Oregon has a population of just under four million. Since 2002, deaths under the act have been stable at 40 to 50 a year.

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The neighbouring state of Washington passed a similar act in 2008, as did the state of Vermont in 2013.

I lived and worked in Oregon. My best friend, who had terminal bowel cancer, used the Oregon law to end his life in 2006. He expressed the desire for a dignified end to his life long before his cancer was diagnosed. The Oregon law gave him the ability to die on his terms. Scotland needs a Death with Dignity Act modelled on the Oregon law.

It is a basic human right for an individual to decide their own destiny. There are circumstances under which an individual decides that death is preferable to living with loss of dignity.

That should be the individual’s choice. Scottish society must provide the best quality palliative care for those with a terminal illness. Where this is not enough, we need Death with Dignity.

John Black

Woodhollow House


Silvan Luley, of Swiss group Dignitas, which makes money by killing people, thinks it is an “atrocity” that Scots do not have the right to assisted suicide. I fear Margo MacDonald’s latest bid to legalise assisted suicide will meet with more success than her previous one.

The BBC abuses its privileged position to promote ­assisted suicide, and our rights-obsessed society still tends to over-value individual choice and disregard arguments about indirect and longer term harms.

While I’m sure there are a few “church leaders” supporting this, we should remember some clergy enjoy the outward trappings of church, while actually functioning from a belief system that bears little resemblance to Christianity.

Richard Lucas