We know that people in deprived areas of Scotland are more likely to present with late-stage cancer, and less likely to have access to quality end of life care. They would be at the front of the queue for an assisted death, ahead of middle-class Scots. Is this conducive to a just society?
I’d urge Ms Garavelli to consider how a change in the law could affect other groups as well: the disabled people’s community; elderly and isolated people; people battling suicidal thoughts. How much of a “choice” would these people have, given the struggles they face?
Proponents point to “safeguards”, but these always fail – there is no human system without error. In the context of assisted dying, error means irreversible, unjust deaths. We must ask: are such deaths a price worth paying so a small minority can end their lives as they choose?
I believe we owe it to the vulnerable not to open them up to grave risks. We need to craft laws with an eye to the whole of society – as emotive as pleas from assisted dying advocates are. Given the profound and unanswerable dangers associated with the practice, we must say no.
Palliative medicine, though not always well-understood and not as well funded as it ought to be, offers holistic care and support to dying people. Investing heavily in this, whilst fighting various inequalities faced by vulnerable and suffering people, is the better way forward.
Jamie Gillies, Angus.
Restrictions will not be permanent
DANI Garavelli’s critique of faith leaders for expressing concerns about the proposed Scottish Assisted Dying Bill overlooks the fact that all commentators are informed by a world view, whether religious or secular. The values drawn from this world view will naturally inform their contribution to public debate.
In the case of so-called assisted dying, Ms Garavelli, in citing public support, overlooks the important point, raised by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care in its response to the McArthur consultation that “the term ‘assisted dying’ is non-specific, confusing and doesn’t reflect defining characteristics of the practice which differentiates it from palliative and end of life care … many members of the public understand ‘assisted dying’ to encompass existing elements of mainstream palliative care.”
Restrictions or safeguards will be removed or widened over time – those who say otherwise can offer no proof, and other countries tell a sad story. Ultimately, it is neither kind nor compassionate to present ill and vulnerable people with the “option” of medical assistance to take their own lives, for the invisible pressure for them to do so will be impossible to discern.
A truly dignified response is to provide those reaching the end of their lives with the best possible care, not to suggest premature termination might be best.
Michael Veitch, Parliamentary Officer, CARE for Scotland, Glasgow.
Read more: A good death is an extension of a good life
Let’s consider a middle way
HERE we go again, with debate centred on a binary choice between two polar opposites anent assisted dying. Why on earth can we not consider a middle way?
Two relatives both suffered intense pain and lay in a state of complete helplessness, in one case for four or five days and the other for nearly two weeks, requiring constant lifting, cleaning, changing and so on after palliative care reached the permitted legal limit but was no longer fully effective. I cannot by any stretch of the imagination imagine anything more cruel and degrading.
Where is the “dignity” which those of strict religious faith talk? Yet they believe that they have the right to impose such suffering on even those of no faith at all. On the other extreme is the idea that assisted dying should be a choice available to all who foresee only increasing deterioration leading to death.
Would it not be preferable to look at a middle way? Rather than put a limit on permissible palliative care, why not, when death is relatively imminent, make the priority to alleviate suffering completely, even if it has the side-effect of hastening that death by a few days or hours? Let us focus on palliative care on this basis. That would also lessen the distress of those relatives who have to watch the suffering of a loved one.
The Hippocratic oath, often quoted, includes the relief of suffering as well as preserving life. If the latter is not possible, the former should take precedence. No-one, to satisfy their religious beliefs, should presume to dictate that someone else should be left to suffer. Let each decide for themselves what constitutes a “dignified death” and make adequate palliative care available to all who reach that point.
I personally have made my wish known, in writing, that I want palliative care to be the priority when only extreme suffering lies ahead.
P Davidson, Falkirk.
Support claim is misguided
OPINION polls do indeed show very high levels of support for “assisted dying” but this is partly because people are confused by what the expression means. A poll in 2021 found that most people believed that “assisted dying” either meant the right to refuse treatment or meant providing hospice-type care. If surveys use the unambiguous term “assisted suicide”, as Margo McDonald MSP did for her Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, then fewer are in favour.
The Yougov polling organisation has been tracking public opinion on “assisted suicide” every two months since August 2019. In Scotland, support for a change in the law to allow assisting the suicide of someone with a terminal condition has fallen from 75% to 70% in the last four years. Support in the case of someone with a painful and incurable but non-terminal condition has fallen from 56% to 42%. Most Scots do not support such a law.
The law being proposed in Scotland limits eligibility to people with a terminal illness. However, laws on assisted suicide, once passed, generally have a tendency to expand. In 2016, Canada passed a law on “medical aid in dying” for people with a terminal condition. In 2021, the law was extended to non-terminal patients. We should heed the example of Canada. It is naïve to believe that the same could not happen in Scotland.
Prof David Albert Jones, Director, Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford.
Read more: Alastair Campbell: Scotland won’t be independent in my lifetime
Appealing to the worst instincts
EDITOR Catherine Salmond asks for views on the polarised state of politics (“Ask not why politics has gone wrong – rather, what can I do to change it?, May 21), having hosted an event with Alastair Campbell who raised his concerns on this, as did Nicola Sturgeon recently. Interestingly, many would argue that both had played their own significant part in stoking divisions while they were themselves at the peak of their influence. Polarised opinions are not a new thing in politics of course, but populist leaders here and elsewhere in the world have seemingly been making the most of their skills in the black art of manipulating people, particularly by appealing to their worst instincts.
Here in Scotland the polarised positions on constitutional matters have enabled an example of this phenomenon, whereby normal political gravity has seemed to all but disappear. No amount of failings on the part of the SNP Scottish Government, or mistakes by the First Minister, appeared to damage their electoral results, as independence support provided an unquestioning underpinning of voting intentions. Only now, after Ms Sturgeon’s decision to step down and the unfolding drama of the police investigation into SNP party finances, does it seem there might be some reckoning for all the years of Scotland being let down by its leaders.
As a jaded floating voter, supportive of Scotland being in the UK and a Remain voter in 2016, I increasingly find elections as a time for choosing the least worst candidate or party. So many have proven to be deeply disappointing in practice compared with their election promises.
Polls now suggest a change of UK government is possible, and even Scotland might contemplate weakening the grip of the SNP. We must hope if alternate leaders manage to capture the public imagination, they will do so with a genuine interest in representing everyone, drawing people together rather than constantly seeking ways to divide them.
Keith Howell, West Linton.
SNP holding back indy
THOM Cross (Letters, May 21) cannot be serious when he claims that Alba is weakening the independence movement.
Your readers will already be aware of the countless times the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon marched Scots up the hill then down again. Indeed, are we not meant to have a “no ifs, no buts” vote on October 19? And why was there a poorly-attended separate Greens/Republicans rally on Calton Hill addressed by Tommy Sheppard the same day as 20,000 turned out at the AUOB Glasgow march? The next one scheduled for Stirling in June appears to clash with – quelle surprise – an SNP conference in Dundee.
The final straw must surely be reports of Ian Blackford “determined to fight for his seat” and Stephen Flynn prematurely gifting support to a potential Starmer government without the promise of a referendum. Have they conveniently forgotten why they were elected in the first place?
Mr Cross implies there may be British state agents within Alba, which is utterly laughable when you consider the performance of a significant number of SNP MPs. There’s no need, they’re doing a fine job on their own with 2031 their new target date for an imaginary referendum.
Marjorie Ellis Thompson, Edinburgh.
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