Suicide bill critics are right to voice fears

I am not sure I follow Professor Hugh McLachlan's logic in his glib dismissal of the fear that Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill might lead to "a reduction in palliative care" as well as to increased pressure on people to seek such "assistance" (Opinion, 27 January).

Of course, no-one can be certain that if the bill is eventually passed it will have either of these dire consequences, and its sponsors can be relied on vociferously to deny that this forms any part of their long-term objectives.

But surely it is incumbent upon our legislators (as distinct from academics in their ivory towers) to take account – especially on this highly sensitive matter – of the law of unintended consequences before approving such controversial proposals.

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Especially at a time when the NHS, along with other public services, is facing substantial cutbacks, it would not be surprising if the fear of such consequences became increasingly widespread – not least among those of us who are pensioners and, health permitting, can be relied upon to vote.


Clarence Drive


Reading Hugh McLachlan's balanced and informative article on assisted suicide strengthened my support for Margo MacDonald's bill. As he says, palliative care can, in most cases, reduce the physical pain associated with dying, but will not always alleviate the sorts of unhappiness and other emotional states that might lead terminally ill people to ensure they have a dignified death.

His point that assisting suicide could be seen as contrary to doctors' central role and professional duty to provide healing, curing and comforting in particular ways should not apply. Doctors should be required to assist the suicide of terminally ill people only after they have expressed a wish for it and all attempts to cure and heal have been exhausted. The comfort to patients will come from the knowledge that a doctor will help them have a peaceful and dignified end to their life.



Balerno, Midlothian

Simply to assume, as does Alan Hinnrichs (Letters, 27 January), that anyone with a religious belief is a crank is to dismiss the views of more than two out of three Scots, quite apart from the fact that non-religious groups such as the BMA also offer arguments based on secular premises.

Mr Hinnrichs also repeats his argument that the decision to end his life is his alone. However, assisted suicide requires the intervention of others. It is the pernicious effects of such third-party interventions, particularly on the role of the medical profession in end-of-life care, which should lead to the rejection of the bill.


Greenfield Crescent

Balerno, Midlothian

According to Alan Hinnrichs, being a member of an established church automatically makes you a "religious crank". I say anyone who makes a statement like that fits the very definition of "prejudiced fool".


Rosehill Terrace