Readers' Letters: My partner would have chosen assisted dying

I am a recently retired palliative care nurse. 18 months ago my much-loved partner of 42 years died of aggressive metastatic cancer. I nursed her at home and she took four weeks to die

Her last week she was in bed, in severe pain on movement, unable to take any liquid medication so reliant on top-up medication from the district nurse which obviously cannot be given instantly. She was on massive doses of painkillers, sedatives and anti-nausea drugs via a syringe driver. During this last week she went into respiratory distress, which means her breathing rate climbed and she was gasping for breath. She had a stroke, meaning she had one-sided weakness and in her final 36 hours lost the ability to cough and swallow, meaning she was effectively drowning on her own saliva and respiratory secretions. Medication can be given to alleviate the latter but its not very effective and has the side-effect of causing a very dry mouth, which is uncomfortable

I know from discussions with her that she would have taken assisted dying if it had been available and I would have supported her to do so. She had the very best palliative care from me and from the NHS which meant her periods of pain, distress and fear were infrequent and short-lived but she still had to go through that. Our current law is clear – we can only treat symptoms, so someone has to be in pain before they can have painkillers. They have to be in distress before sedatives can be given. Accordingly, even the very best palliative care can only alleviate the pain, fear and distress of dying. It can never eliminate them

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I fully support the right to choose and that also means the right of the religious to not avail themselves of the ability to choose assisted dying. I object very strongly to the religious – like Church of Scotland Moderator the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields (Scotsman, 23 January) – telling me and my loved ones they cannot accept assisted dying and to condemn my loved ones to an extended death with pain and fear. I beg the church to put their religious objections aside and to be compassionate and to accept that the majority of people in Scotland want this very limited and humane measure put in place. If it had been in place my much-loved partner would have had a better death.

Liam McArthur signs a pledge card in support of his Assisted Dying Bill, at the Scottish ParliamentLiam McArthur signs a pledge card in support of his Assisted Dying Bill, at the Scottish Parliament
Liam McArthur signs a pledge card in support of his Assisted Dying Bill, at the Scottish Parliament

Jeremy Pascoe, Edinburgh

Caring Kirk?

I really am angry after reading the article by Rev Dr Iain Greensheilds.Dignity in dying is not assisted suicide. It is only for people who wish to end their own life in their own timeframe. People in palliative care. Not people who have dementia or are elderly and vulnerable. It is all about the terminally ill having choice.

The Church is meant to care! Does this mean the Church of Scotland would rather watch people die in horrible circumstances and a great deal of pain than grant them a choice? Having the choice would be wonderful and would allow peace at a time when there is little else. Instead of the terror of knowing what horror lies ahead, you would have peace of mind knowing your end is in your own hands.

Please if there is a god, let there be choice. Even if you personally would never use this facility, I would ask MSPs to vote for it to be passed. Then people like me can live what time we have left in the joy of knowing we will not have pain at the end.

Norma Rivers, Ayr, South Ayrshire

Respect required

I understand and respect the view of Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields on asssted dying but the other side also needs respect.

I am out of cancer – so far, so good; but it might well kill me. If, when that happens, I would like time to say goodbye and not struggle to breathe as I go slowly in front of my appalled family and friends.

It is of course important to get the laws and support right – but does a person dying, slowly, in agony, care about that?That could be me.

Chris Saltmarsh, Edinburgh

Barbaric stance

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He emphasises the caring activities undertaken by his organisation as if they are under threat. This Bill should empower individuals to openly discuss and have documented their personal views on the management of their dying and have them respected and facilitated wherever possible.

I’m not affiliated to any religious organisation and feel this law is actually a safeguard for individuals who may be being “cared for” in a way they don't wish. My brother died in hospital recently, after pulling out his nasogastric tube and refusing food and fluids. It’s not quick. How much better if he could have had an open honest discussion with the kind staff caring for him before it was too late.

The law rightly tries to prevent murder. Continuing to insist someone must suffer a protracted, painful and possibly repulsive death, against their expressed wish, when it could be quick and peaceful is barbaric.

R Slack, Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire

Off the rails

If I was being uncharitable I would suggest that Alastair Dalton (“Be careful what you wish for on the Caledonian Sleeper”, Scotsman, 20 January) is going into bat for Serco just as the rest of Scotland is hoping to celebrate the end of an era for a company that has become a by-word for corporate greed and the failure of privatisation.

Even if we take at face value Serco’s claim that it has lost £69 million on the Sleeper contract – and elsewhere in the accounts, it reports that it is turning an annual profit from the service – this tells us nothing about how the route would be run in public hands, putting passengers first and reinvesting surpluses instead of finding clever accounting tricks to obscure profits.

We could debate these figures endlessly but, as it’s highly unlikely Serco’s accountants will ever be forced to reveal all their secrets, it doesn’t alter the basic point: either Serco is profiting from running the Caledonian Sleeper and it shouldn’t be; or it is losing money at an unsustainable rate and it wouldn’t appear to be in its interests to continue.

For now the Scottish Government appears to have rejected the company’s demand for more money for the remainder of the contract, but we await the final decision.

The options are a direct award of the contract back to Serco – which would represent not just a U-turn by the Transport Minister but a betrayal of passengers and staff of the highest order – or to return it to public ownership, the only sensible and viable route for this historic service.

Richard Leonard MSP, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Not a colony

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Nicola Sturgeon continues to peddle the “colonial myth” (that she will take Scotland “out of the UK”, Scotsman, 23 January). Of course she knows that Scotland is not a colony but it suits her scenario to imply that it is a downtrodden colony of the British Empire, entitled to leave whenever it wants.

However, like residents of Hotel California, Scotland can check out but it cannot leave. That is because it is bound by the 1707 Treaty of Union, something the SNP appears unwilling to mention. Any change to that Treaty would be a matter for the whole UK, or at least of Great Britain. There would need to be a UK referendum on the matter.

I never understood David Cameron's reasoning. Did he realise that he was putting the future of the whole UK at risk? Fortunately the sane voters of Scotland saved us from disaster.

Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh

Out of date

At the end of this month objectors will have the opportunity to challenge the project to build a £120 million interchange at Sheriffhall (2018 cost). As one of many people who submitted an objection it seems to me that the proposal is ten-20-years-old thinking at a time when we are at last beginning to wake up to the serious reality of climate crisis.

One of the crucial points against this expensive new build is that more road capacity has shown to lead to more vehicles on the roads and this where government targets are to reduce car usage by 20-30 per cent by 2030. What is even more worrying about the proposal is that while it may or may not free up traffic flow at Sheriffhall there will be increased congestion further on the A720 and the A7 into the city without massive additional roadbuilding.

A far better use of precious capital resources would be to improve public transport and active travel opportunities. The recent suggestion of a new tram route from Edinburgh to Dalkeith would certainly help reduce car usage through Sheriffhall. It remains to be seen whether the Public Inquiry will support a project promoted by those thirled to roadbuilding or whether the need for carbon reduction will be recognised.

Russell McLarty, Tranent, East Lothian

Careless talk

Isn't it strange, Mr Zahawi, how “carelessness” in one’s financial affairs inevitably results in great benefit, never in great loss, for the people involved?

Steve Hayes, Leven, Fife

Age and wisdom

Westminster has consistently opposed the suggestion that 16-year-olds should have a say in their future through elections or decisions on gender, presumably because such matters should be left to their elders.

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Then I turn to the letters pages of Scotland’s broadsheets, filled as they are with contributions from those in retirement who fill their declining years with repetitive assertion, often tinged with bile, on issues of the moment.

Does wisdom lie with them, or with youth which has neither the time nor the inclination to indulge in such dialogues of the deaf?

James Scott (age 90), Edinburgh

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