Letter: Dying debate

I DISAGREE with your leader article (“Time for a fresh debate”, 5 January) which welcomes a new discussion on legislating for some form of euthanasia.

It is only just over a year since Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill was overwhelmingly defeated in the Scottish Parliament after an exhaustive consultation. What has changed since then?

The Falconer Commission, which appeared to be biased towards a change in the law in its composition and procedure, recommends terminally ill patients should be able to request from their GP a lethal dose which they can administer to themselves. This seems to ignore the problem of accurately predicting the “terminal” state, as well as the problems of a change in role of the medical profession and the dangers of abuse highlighted in previous consultations.

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The article perpetuates some misunderstandings: that medical advances have prompted this debate; that the only choice is between a horrific death and deliberately ending a life in order to end suffering (euphemistically called “assisted dying”); that cessation of futile, curative treatment and institution of palliative care is somehow akin to euthanasia; that religious believers are ignoring medical advances.

The debate has, in fact, been prompted by a small number of people determined to change the law; the development and widening of the availability of good palliative care, and educating the caring professions and the public about it, would make the debate largely irrelevant; withdrawal of curative treatment, which is no longer effective and may, indeed, be harmful is good medical practice, provided palliative care is maintained and the patient is not starved to death. Christians have been at the forefront of the development of palliative care and believe that relieving suffering and caring for one another to the end of life is more supportive of human dignity than deliberately ending a human life.

I will therefore be opposing Margo MacDonald’s new attempt to change the law.

(Rev Dr) Donald M MacDonald

Craiglockhart Grove

Edinburgh