The liberal view (Robert Wishart)

Tavish Scott is “very nervous of a proposal for the state to intervene” in allowing assisted suicide (report in last week’s Shetland Times). Currently the state intervenes to prevent us choosing how we end our lives.

The instinctive liberal would let each of us make the appropriate decision when the time comes.

Robert Wishart
South Hillhead,


Add Your Comment
  • iantinkler

    • January 23rd, 2015 16:40

    Robert, has Tavish the guts to make a firm decision on anything? too buisy fence sitting less he offend the voter! Such a shame, the law treats people worse than animals, better, to just die in lingering pain than offend the sanctimonious idiots whom think they know best.

  • Marie Sandison

    • January 23rd, 2015 17:31

    Dear Robert, you may be disappointed with Tavish Scott’s less liberal view, but since our MSPs are elected to take on board the views of the public I suspect this might have something to do with it. The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill was launched 14/11/13 despite the majority of individuals and organisations responding to the initial consultation on the issue rejecting a change in the law and the previous bill being defeated in Holyrood by a massive 85-16 in 2010.

  • Michael Garriock

    • January 23rd, 2015 21:33

    @ Marie Sandison. I’m not sure what the point is you’re trying to make. Organisation(s), individual(s) or the “State” arguably have no right to sit in judgement and dictate what any individual has the right to do to or have done to themselves, which directly affects only that individual. Doing otherwise, as is occuring and has occured for a very long time is arguably a blatant breach of an individual’s human rights.

    If I should choose to commit suicide, or arrange for someone who is agreeable to do so, to assist me to commit suicide, it is nobody’s business but my own. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any other individual(s), organisation(s) or the “State” as far as I’m concerned.

    *If* the “State” has a role to play, it is to put in place legislation that provides safeguards against such things as a person being coerced or otherwise taken advantage of, abused etc in making whatever decision(s) they make, and to protect anyone assisting in carrying out their legitimate and valid instructions from persecution or prosecution, which the person in question can choose to take advantage of, *IF* they should wish to do so. In making that protective legislation it is reasonable and fair to expect the views of any and all interested parties to be taken in to consideration to make that legislation as effective and reasonable as possible, it is not fair and reasonable that my, or anyone else’s ability to end my or their own life how I choose, when I choose is dictated by other individual(s), organisation(s) or the “State”. Quite frankly, it is not their place, or their right to become involved and attempt to influence and dictate the route of the private and personal lives of any individual at that level, nor is it any of their business.

    Politicians need to butt out of dictating what the final decision is a person takes, and relegate themselves to doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Ensuring that whatever the final decision a person takes, they can do so in a calm, unhurried, fully informed and uninfluenced by anyone else manner, and that their decision and the reasonable actions of any third party they engage to carry out whatever their final decision is, are all enshrined and protected as absolute rights in statute.

  • David Spence

    • January 23rd, 2015 23:46

    In some ways I am pleased that the right to die or euthanasia is still a contentious subject in which to debate, and subsequently is not made law.

    Not wishing to be cynical, but when it comes to making money killing is no object, but if it was made law that the right to die or euthanasia was allowed, I would be very suspicious of ‘ Private Care Homes ‘ using this as an opportunity to, lets say, get rid of less profitable patients who take up resources and beds that could otherwise be used by ‘ richer patients ‘.

    As said ‘ When it comes to making money, killing is no object………as people of this mindset (making money) generally have no conscience when it comes to what methods they use to make a profit (typical trait of capitalism).

    • Ali Inkster

      • January 24th, 2015 13:57

      What profit was there for Comrade Stalan when he killed millions of his own people all in the name of socialist brotherhood?

  • David Spence

    • January 24th, 2015 14:20

    Ali, if you believe in making money and profit at any cost, let me remind you what the Bible says about those people who think, apart from themselves, more about making money, profit at any cost (no morals whatsoever) and who put their own interests ahead of anything else

    ‘ For the Want for Money is the Root of All Evils ‘

    Capitalism, unfortunately, DOES bring out the worst in Human Nature in all it’s selfish ways.

    • Ali Inkster

      • January 24th, 2015 16:54

      I’ll ask you David why did Comrade Stalin, Uncle Ho, and Chairman Mao Kill millions of their own peoples in the name of socialist brotherhood? I don’t think the victims were bothered whether it was profit or ideology that brought about their ends but since their murder was not motivated by Capitalist greed I would like to read how you manage to shift the blame to them anyway. And since you keep bringing up the bible it also says God gave us free will, now I for one like to use that free will, I am also more than happy for others to exercise their free will. Something your socialist brothers are not too comfortable with.

      • David Spence

        • January 26th, 2015 23:54

        Same reason as to why US Foreign Policy has been responsible for 10 x millions of people being killed, maimed or left disabled for life because US Foreign Policy has supported regimes which subjugate and oppress their own people but as long as US Economic Interests take greater priority the USA quietly ignores this and either bribes or blackmails other countries to remain silent as well in regards to its hypocrisy and double-standards in its political and moral judgement.

        The USA has been in more wars and conflict than any other country in the world in the past 120 years. Why? Because when it comes to a country wanting to dominate, subjugate the people of that country as nothing more than a slave trade for US Companies moving in and exploiting every aspect of what that country may have in terms of natural resources, business marketing, exploitation of the population and supporting a Government that is prepared to ally with the USA in terms of military power and economic necessity.

        So Ali, I guess you would support such a country as long as it is making a profit, yes ?

      • Ali Inkster

        • January 27th, 2015 10:36

        I can’t think that I ever said I supported or condoned in any way the criminal actions of the USA, But since you seem incapable of condemning the actions of your socialist brethren we can only assume that you do support them and the murder of millions of their own for the crime of thinking differently.

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • January 24th, 2015 18:31

    Surely demanding the “human right” of being able to request a doctor to end our lives is introducing a “duty to kill” into the role of our medical profession which impacts on their autonomy and rights as human beings… There is no really autonomous right, as all our actions and rights impact the lives of other people.

    Also, does it not say a lot about a society how that society treats it’s most vulnerable members? Often vulnerable, sick and terminally I’ll people feel like they are a burden on society, and to legalise assisted dying would introduce a pressure, either real or perceived, for those who are in that position to have their lives ended through euthanasia.

    It seems that a minority in our country think there are only two options ahead when diagnosed with a terminal illness. Either suffer a horrible prolonged death, or euthanasia. Their is in fact a third way, which is high quality palliative care, which has in our modern age progressed beyond that of previous generations to relieve pain, provide comfort and treat people with the dignity and honour they deserve.

    Compare the UK with Holland (where euthanasia is legal) and we see a stark contrast. The Netherlands have a much smaller hospice movement, and invest comparably far less in quality palliative care for their elderly and vulnerable people. This has coincided with the introduction of euthanasia.

    In the UK rather than legalising the assisted suicide of our most vulnerable, we have a large hospice movement which cares for these precious lives with dignity and respect. Medical advances have meant that even the most debilitated patients such as those with motor-neurone disease can have symptoms managed and reduced making latter life dignified and far more comfortable than would have been in times past.

    Admittedly people who have been in accidents who have suffered paralysis may have many years to life with their condition, but it has been proven time and again that life for these people is valuable, meaningful and full of opportunity.

    Instead of legalising the killing of our elderly and most vulnerable, surely we should maintain our approach of providing and investing in quality palliative care, which gives dignity, shows respect and proves that we view our parents, grandparents, and others as precious human beings, not mere animals who can be “put down”.

    Matthew Laurenson
    Irvine Place

  • Haydn Gear

    • January 24th, 2015 18:41

    Bill Gates is a capitalist. Bill Gates has a vast fortune.Bill Gates gives huge sums of money to deserving causes and sets up foundations for the benefit of mankind. Shouldn’t Bill Gates by all accounts be an evil man as a consequence of being a rich American capitalist? It’s HOW money is used not how much you have resting in your bank accounts, stock markets and piggy banks! Is anyone thinking of knocking Bill Gates off his perch?

  • Michael Garriock

    • January 26th, 2015 5:55

    “Surely demanding the “human right” of being able to request a doctor to end our lives is introducing a “duty to kill” into the role of our medical profession which impacts on their autonomy and rights as human beings… There is no really autonomous right, as all our actions and rights impact the lives of other people.”

    @ Matthew Laurenson. There’s a significant element of missing the point, and arguing against claims that have never been made being introduced here.

    The “human right” to which I referred is not that of being allowed to demand a doctor end a life, but that of freedom of choice and self-determination of the individual, in this case, the right to do with their life exactly as they see fit, how they see fit, when they see fit. In fact I would argue that involving a doctor in any right to end life process is rather unwise on the grounds of conflict of interest.

    Any impact an individual choosing to end their life can have on anyone else is on an emotional level only, and no one individual has responsibility for any other individual’s emotions either in life, or death, unless they choose to take responsibility for them. To suggest, as you seem to be, that an individual should not consider suicide in any circumstances, at least partially on the grounds of the effect doing so may have on other people, is, quite frankly IMHO highly disrespectful to the individual concerned, and if an “expectation” of those other people, is a highly selfish act on their part.

    You may well be right that introducing assisted suicide would increase pressure, perceived or real, on the terminally ill etc to at least address the possibility of choosing it, but how is that in some way “worse” than the status quo?

    If someone commits suicide right now, the assumption is automatically made by society they were mentally ill. If someone decides to commit suicide and it can be proven that someone else knew that was their intent, and failed to summons “assistance”, even if the person concerned had left long standing clear instructions that assistance must not be summonsed in any circumstances, and threats of the consequences should their instruction be ignored and they recovered. That other person can be charged with a criminal offence.

    If someone is diagnosed with a life threatening condition it is automatically assumed by all medical professionals that they will unquestionably accept every treatment deemed viable, and continue to accept that treatment(s) for as long as flesh and organs remain “alive”, regardless how far advanced their condition becomes, and how much they deteriorate from being a functional human being. To the point that anyone declining treatment is strongly urged to consult with a psychiatrist, and for anyone relying on State Benefits (as a number in such a state of health are likely to be), runs a very real risk of having them reduced or stopped as a result of making and standing by a decision to refuse a recommended treatment. What was that you were saying about introducing “pressure”? From where I’m sitting the current regime is doing everything in its power to pressurise everybody as strongly as they possibloy can to endure to the bitter end of what medical science can do to keep flesh and organs alive, regardless whether they really want to endure any of that at all, or make a reasoned rational decision at some point during the advance of their condition that enough is enough.

    The point I am trying to make is, every individual should be allowed the choice of handling what is a very difficult situation as best as it suits them, they are the victim, and if there can ever be one time in anyone’s life that its “all about them”, then surely their own death qualifies head and shoulders above all other. Yes, unfortunately some people will have the misfortune, despite the best efforts of the best possible care, to suffer a horrible prolonged death, but if it is their choice that they’d rather endure that rather than not be around at all, then they should be allowed it. As you say, there is now a standard of medical and nursing care that can in many cases allow the patient a relatively comfortable and peaceful decline and passing, and if that is what the person concerned can be happy with, then they too should be allowed it.

    However, what is woefully missing is the ability for an individual, who does not want to risk a horrible prolonged death, and regardless how excellent the medical and nursing care was to accompany it, would consider the process of declining and “lying around waiting to die” their own personal living hell, the ability to make a quick exit, should they for whatever reason be too incapacitated to undertake the act alone. Why should they be denied what they want, when everybody else is getting what they want?

    Nobody should be made to feel that they are “too much trouble” or that their life has no worth, but by the same token nobody should be forced to continue to live when they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their own life has become worthless to them, and that situation can only deteriorate, and the latter scenario is what is happening right now.

    The “State’s” place is not to dictate what I choose to do with my own life, or when, that is my exclusive choice. Their job, as I said previously is to legislate and provide safeguards against anyone feeling coerced or pressurised in to making any one choice, but to also protect the right of those who choose to terminate themselves how and when they see fit, and any other person they engage to assist them in the act, so that they too can have their final wishes met equally as well as those who make other choices do.

    Some of us, even when staring our own mortality straight in the face can still assess the available evidence objectively and make a judgement call on which battles are worth fighting, and which are already lost. Death, although never welcome, when facing an already lost battle, becomes a thankful exit. All folk are asking for, is the right to choose it, without being considered insane, browbeaten and financially penalised in to changing their mind, and left to get on with it in peace, while anyone they may choose to assist them achieve it, is protected from potentially serious criminal charges as a result.

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • January 26th, 2015 11:17

    To say that assisted suicide can be somehow removed from the medical profession is to ignore how it is implemented in other countries. All countries and states which have legalised the assisted suicide require medics to be involved in order to ensure the death is not inhumane. Therefore, you are essentially introducing a ‘duty to kill’ into the role of a profession which takes an oath to preserve life. So the “human right” to be assisted to die does impact on other people, not just on an emotional level.

    If we want to think about how the system works in other countries, it provides chilling evidence for how the bar gets lowered, as to who is eligible to be “euthanized”.

    Take Holland as an example, last year, upwards of 40 young adults were euthanized, and the cause the request was cited as depression. How many people have been through boughts of severe depression, and may well have considered this course of action, only to find that life improved and the depression was managed well. Safeguards against this type of euthanasia cannot be bullet proof, as if someone persistently requests euthanasia and is deemed to be within the criteria, it cannot be refused.

    Then lets take another example of the US state of Oregon, which has legalised assisted suicide. Over the course of one year, 35% of those who were killed at their request confided that they felt they were a burden on their families.

    Then there are individual examples of people who have been paralysed, such as the rugby player Matt King who was paralysed from the neck down aged 17. From his own story he admits that he “wanted to die” for the first 5 years since his accident. If he had been in Holland this request would have been granted as he would have met the criteria set out. Thankfully, however, the UK medical profession offered care for his mind, and his physicial condition, and he has since realised that life is full of opportunity, completing a law degree and now working for a top city of London firm. This is just one example of how lives can be turned around, with quality care and support.

    The problem with euthanasia is that once it is legalised, the subjective nature of requests leads to people, who may be in a phase of life which is particularly difficult, may choose to have their lives ended. There is no second chance, and even safeguards such as panels cannot prevent someone having their one and only life ended if they request it and are proven to be in a “stable” mental state. This even includes people with chronic depression, and those who may find their life intolerable, but if they had been given the right treatment, things could have changed for the better.

    As I said in my previous response, there is an alternative to euthanasia, which involves treating individuals with respect, dignity and honour. Rather than legalising the assisted suicide of vulnerable people in our society, we should persevere with them, offering them the best possible life here and now. If at any time a patient does not wish to accept treatment, this is of course within their rights at the moment, with no change needed to the law. If I were to be diagnosed with a terminal condition tomorrow, there is nothing stopping me from receiving chemo, or whatever the recommended treatment may be. If people really do not wish to fight an illness any longer, they can request only pain relief and let nature take its course.

    The key difference between that and euthanasia is the intent which the medication is offered. At the moment, doctors always treat patients with the intent of preserving and enhancing their lives, to request that this fundamental bedrock of medical philosophy be changed to necessitate administering lethal drugs with the intent of ending life, is to depart from the ethos of what the medical profession has been built on for hundreds of years.

    Rather than moving towards prematurely ending the lives of our elderly and vulnerable, we should be lobbying the government to increase spending on quality palliative care, providing holistic treatment so that people’s quality of life will be such that ending their lives prematurely will not be requested.

    I’ll close with one final example, what if Stephen Hawking had requested euthanasia when he was diagnosed with his debilitating condition? At the time he was diagnosed the technology which is available for him today to communicate did not exist. We would have lost one of our greatest thinkers, and as a society we would all suffer. The same may be true for people who feel they are in a hopeless state. What if we euthanized hundreds of sufferers of motor-neurone disease, or MS, only to find that a cure was discovered years following?

    Surely we all want to live in a society which protects and improves the lives of our most vulnerable, refusing to confirm to them that their lives are not worth living, instead raising them up out of the place of depression with quality care, and introducing hope that life can and will always have meaning, purpose and even joy. To help people kill themselves is a grave step backwards, and in other countries has already been proven to facilitate the deaths of people who did not need to die.

    Matthew Laurenson
    Irvine Place

  • Michael Garriock

    • January 27th, 2015 5:11

    @ Matthew Laurenson. To slightly paraphrase a line from a song of the not too distant past, “Everybody is doing it, so why the hell should we?”

    Simply copying what others do has all the components of a recipe for disaster, and if taken to its logical conclusion would mean the human race would all still be living in caves taking potshots at passing wildlife with rock tipped spears, hoping to get lucky before starvation set in. Certainly when considering introducing any new statute we should examine very carefully the system(s) in place by those who already have a comparable statute, to identify and replicate the good ideas therein which are suitable for creating what we want to achieve, but also to identify the less than ideal components of their system(s) so that we can either improve upon them or create something different which we believe is better for our own.

    I still maintain doctors should be kept well clear of performing assisted suicides, Pierrepoint, to the best of my knowledge had neither medical training nor qualifications, yet managed to quite successfully dispatch several hundred individuals. All he had was effective equipment, and the knowledge and skills to use it properly, anyone performing an assisted suicide has no need to have anything more than that either.

    To be honest, I find your choice or phrases “…care for his mind”, and “….given the right treatment” quite worrying, as they would appear to echo the widespread societal attitude that anyone who would contemplate suicide in any circumstances “must be wrong in the head”. A view which has scant if any supporting scientific medical evidence, and is arguably only maintained and driven by the predominant religious creeds of the country, and nothing else. I find such a view abhorrent, as it permits both judgement and discrimination against an individual by another or others, without they having any right to do so.

    I share your concerns about assisted suicide for individuals where the SOLE reason for they wishing to go through with such, is an already diagnosed mental condition. Firstly on the grounds that I do not feel I am adequately informed on the subject of mental conditions to have an opinion either way, and secondly that mental conditions open up a whole other debate on what is and isn’t valid evidence of assessing such conditions, and the altogether far more complicated debate of others acting in any capacity on behalf of such sufferers. I’m not saying that those with a mental condition shouldn’t be permitted assisted suicides, I am saying that the way ahead needs far more work and debate than the case for those without mental conditions, and I would not consider supporting assisted suicide solely for mental conditions until and unless that work is done and that debate held.

    In your own example of Matt King you state that by his own admission, for the first five years after becoming paralysed he “wanted to die”, but after “medical care for his mind” he got past that wish and took his life in a different direction. If it took five years to achieve this “positive” transition, I’m afraid it comes off sounding more like being browbeaten in to submission, brainwashed, or being “comfortably numb” on “happy pills” for so long he didn’t know who or what he was, than simply a case of “changing his mind”. If so, how can society and humanity justify ethically and morally using such tactics to achieve the text book’s “desired outcome”, and the five years of denial and the inevitable stress if not mental torture accompanying it to achieve that end.

    The introduction of crystal ball gazing in to the debate achieves nothing. *If*, to use your example, Stephen Hawking had chosen suicide, society and human kind would have been denied a great thinker. That effectively says that regardless of an individual’s personal suffering, either physically or mentally, if their contribution to the advancement of society should become great enough in the future, it was reasonable and justifiable to force them to endure whatever personal pain was involved for them in preventing them from dying when they wanted to at an earlier time, and even if their future contribution wasn’t it was still okay to condone their suffering just in case they had became the next genius. You may not have a problem with that scenario, but I do on the grounds of the selfishness of society to expect any such thing from any individual. Furthermore, to take your apparent stance to its logical conclusion, shouldn’t we then as a society be absolutely pacifist, and ban any and all abortions and contraception, in case the next genius is erased in some petty military skirmish, or denied life right from the start.

    As a society we make it very easy to prevent the creation of a life, and to snuff one out in the very early stages, and even accept its “okay” to send forth young people to be killed at our leader’s whim so long as its “for the greater good”. Yet, when it comes to allowing the aged and crippled who crave release to attain it, society fights with every thing its got to prevent it at all costs. To me, there is something seriously wrong with that equation – either have one standard for all human life, or have none, making it so easy to erase it from the start, yet make it so difficult to obtain release at the end is a scenario which defies all logic and reason.

    A fallacy which frequently crops up with those opposed to legalised assisted suicide, and is present in your posts, is that much of the opposition to the proposal treats it as if what is on the table is in fact a motion to make assisted suicide available on demand. To my understanding no such thing is being proposed, rather what is on the table is the right of a person who either has a condition, or has declined in health to the point they cannot perform their own suicide, to be allowed assistance from a third party to do so. Put another way, it is empowering and removing discrimination against the severely ill and disabled, by providing them with a facility through which they can take their own life, if that is what they choose, which is exactly what every one of their healthy or physically able counterparts have available to them each and every moment of their lives. Why should someone unable to use of their arms because of their disability be denied the right to end their own life, when someone else denied the use of their legs by their illness or disability still retains it? That is effectively what this is all about.

    Medical and nursing care should be of the highest standard, and every individual should be encouraged to make the very best of whatever their life situation is, that all goes without saying, and where that works for folk I have no problem with it. However your goal of having a care system where nobody ever chooses suicide or assisted suicide can and will only ever exist in one place, your own personal Utopia.

    What constitutes “quality of life” is unique to every individual, and regardless how good a care system is in place, there are always going to be some who will choose suicide over entering it, or proceeding beyond a certain point in it. As once their own personal benchmarks of what is vital to make their life worth anything are crossed, they have reached their own personal check out point, and any attempts to persuade them to proceed further will be received as patronising and resisted by whatever little ability they still have left to do so with.

    As things stand, anybody who wishes to gain the maximum time they still have left before “x” of their illness/disability overcomes them, but do not wish to continue beyond that point, is faced with two choices. Either they perform their own demise at an earlier point than they really wish to do so, so as to fully ensure they avoid going beyond the point they which to go, and thus denying themselves however long they did have between the two points. Or they take the risk of relying on being aware when they are close to their own check out point, and still be able to do what they need to do not to pass it. Undoubtedly, a final decline being what is, by its nature will be largely unpredictable, especially to the layperson, and as a result some will not be able to succeed and end up having to endure whatever medical staff have been trained to believe is the “right” way forward until they, and not the patient decide “all hope is lost”, and the patient has no choice but endure that process regardless of how much they want to terminate it immediately, as they no longer have any way out.

    All that’s being asked for is that people who have no interest in being kept alive beyond a certain point of decline, where that decline has rendered them incapable of performing their own demise, a viable way out. Folk that are happy to cling to life to the last possible moment medical science can obtain for them are catered to, folk who have no interest in enduring every treatment going and wish to just let nature take its course, as you already note, are catered to. So why are those who having been diagnosed with a terminal condition, and are already feeling it dragging them close to the point where their life is worthless to them being heavily discriminated against? Nobody is asking for anyone to “kill” anyone if they don’t want to, only that where someone makes a private arrangement with a willing person to assist them with suicide at a pre-agreed stage of their decline, that both their right to do so is recognised, and that the person assisting them is immune from persecution and prosecution after the fact. That is all.

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • January 27th, 2015 13:54

    @ Michael, the reason why we as a nation have not legalised euthanasia in this country, is due to the fact that there is no way of providing adequate safeguards to ensure the system is not open grave mistakes. No matter how many checks and balances are in place, we cannot ensure that a person is making the decision for the right reasons, reasons which may be based on the assumption that their life can have no purpose or dignity, they are a burden on society, or even that their depression can never improve.

    For these reasons, the last time this was seriously considered in the UK, a select committee took the decision to recommended that “euthanasia should not be allowed” and advised further spending on the UK’s already well developed facilities to care specifically for people who are terminally ill.

    To respond to your point re “brainwashing” I find it extremely disturbing how you challenge the story of Matt King, who pulled through a period of severe depression with the help of quality medical care. He was not “brainwashed” or made to submit as you seem to suggest, but at his own admission given space to realise that suicide was not his only option. You seem to suggest that he should have committed suicide, assisted or otherwise, and we all move on. What a tragedy it would be if we as a society took your stance. Matt King now lives a life full of purpose, and has attained a legal degree and career which he find satisfying. He was not brainwashed, but found that considering euthanasia / suicide was a course of action which would have been a huge waste of life.

    In terms of expanding the debate to abortion and war, that would probably widen the scope of this discussion too far, but in general I believe all of these debates have a common thread. How you answer the following question will determine your attitude. Is human life to be honoured and valued to the point that it should not be ended intentionally, or do we as humans have the right to end the lives of our children, our soldiers and our parents / grandparents at will, under certain circumstances.

    I appreciate this is too vast a subject to discuss in one small forum, so will stick with the euthanasia topic here.

    You suggest that we should not copy other nations in their implementation of euthanasia, but plot a different course, trailblazing a new policy framework which bears little resemblance to the mistakes made by others. I find it hard to believe that you suggest we as a society introduce a policy of killing people at their request with no input from the medical profession, that sounds like a can of worms which could lead to cruelty. Anyone who has heard the recent horror stories of executions by lethal injection gone wrong in America will know that these “procedures” can end up in a long and agonising death for the victim / patient. Who would then be licenced to kill? Their family, their friends? Or some 3rd party which is paid for the service? The point here is whoever is given the “duty to kill” in this scenario has a very difficult decision to make. As a doctor, do they abstain? Could that affect their career? As a student at school do they apply for the medical profession knowing that rather than being a caring profession, it is now also a killing profession? As a friend or family member, can I bear the burden of having finished off my relative? What would it do to a doctor, or family member emotionally? If we ask a 3rd party to carry out the procedure, does that then introduce the prospect of economic gain for those who develop, administer and apply the lethal drug?

    Then there is the aforementioned problem of criteria for such an end to be made of a precious human life. How do you ensure that the person is not making the request based on wrong motives. Or based on real or perceived pressure that they are a burden on others. The answer to this question is you can’t. No one can read the mind of another, and ultimately, you can never guarantee the motive cited for requesting euthanasia is not a temporary frame of mind, one which could change if these people were offered quality care, and treated with dignity and respect. This does not mean brainwashing them, but simply offering holistic care which leaves them feeling that they are valued, that they live in a society which treats them as a member who is worth caring for. Not brainwashing, but human-kindness which gives people a fresh perspective on themselves, and on life.

    Rather than die with a lethal injection, wanting no more of this life, if we cared for people to a level where even terminal illness was filled with dignity, we could alleviate the suffering which causes people to request this end. I see this as the only pragmatic way forward, as to legalise assisted suicide carries with it practical and moral implications which no other society on earth has a clean record on, and would only leave us in a position where we are complicit as a society in facilitating the deaths of people who do not need to die.

    While this remains a topic for political debate, the medical profession has made some pretty concrete statements on the subject. I have included two below:

    The international code of medical ethics states:
    “’a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from the time of conception until death’.”

    The World Medical Association confirmed that “assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession.”

    Another huge pitfall to introducing this legislation which we have not even covered is the frightening economic arguments which have been made in favour of euthanasia, spearheaded by the world economist Jacques Attali, the former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who said, ‘As soon as he gets beyond 60-65 years of age, man lives beyond his capacity to produce, and he costs society a lot of money… euthanasia will be one of the essential instruments of our future societies.’

    In legalising euthanasia, we would be opening ourselves up to potentially ending the lives of our most vulnerable people, under criteria which can never be fail safe, and also opening the system up to being exploited by those for whom euthanasia will become economically advantageous, we are essentially putting in jeopardy the value which we as a society place on human life, and de-humanising those who deserve not to be killed but to be honoured, respected and dignified by our society in a way which makes life worth living.

    Matthew Laurenson
    Irvine Place

  • Suzy Jolly

    • January 27th, 2015 17:21

    There is no dignity in being pumped full of morphine for weeks, sometimes months, waiting for the Grim Reaper aka morphine overdose to take you.

    Death is part of life and the sooner we accept that, the better, instead of expecting people to be cured of all and sundry.

    Nobody has the right to tell another person that they cannot die by their own choosing at a time and place which suits them with the aid of another; that’s the crux of the matter.

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • January 27th, 2015 18:12

    @ Suzy
    To say that “nobody has the right to tell another person they cannot die by their own choosing….” you are putting forward a blinkered position about what our fundamental rights actually are. There is a great emphasis placed on the rights of the individual in Western societies, but with that we seem to have picked up the flawed assumption that we can do whatever we want, and it has no impact on the wider society. This is of course untrue, because our decisions do impact other people. Inevitably other people will be affected by someone choosing to die. The examples given previously include those who are given the duty to kill, either doctors, family members or 3rd party contractors. It also includes the elderly, disabled, vulnerable and mentally unwell who could be put at risk if they feel like a burden on society (which they should not in any society that values, respects and treats everyone with equal honour and dignity), those who feel perceived pressure to end their lives, those who may be going through a temporary phase of life which makes them vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. All of the above would be affected by changing this legislation, and as has been proven in other societies there is no safeguard possible which can stop this system becoming more and more horrific. Last year alone several dozen young people in Holland aged between 25-40 were euthanised as they had depression. I have consulted with a senior doctor on this, and his impression was that those 40 people were obviously not satisfactorily helped to manage their condition, and as such 40 young lives were wasted as a result.

    The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in a test case (Dianne Pretty 2002) that the European Charter of Human Rights does not include a right to die. So when you say “Nobody has the right to stop us having the right to die” you are choosing to ignore the rights of all the people listed above, who would be worse off, possibly even dead, if this legislation was brought to pass.

    Perhaps one possible explanation of why we are having this discussion in our generation has something to do with the general existential worldview held by some, as we are increasingly encouraged to (as the burger king advert puts it) to “have it our way”. We are constantly given choice to have sovereignty over the things we buy, the experiences we enjoy, etc etc. It perhaps follows that we are now requesting not only to have our materialistic rights of choice, but to think we have the right to plan the time and circumstances of our deaths as well.

    Trying to do so will result in a poorer society for all, where human life is degraded, palliative care could also suffer as in Holland’s case, and there is also the fear factor which has been noted in states which practice euthanasia of people who are scared to go to their doctor with a chronic illness in case the doctor suggests euthanasia as a possible course of action.

    We should not underestimate the plethora of ways something like this could turn from being a very misguided course of action, to one which is a human tragedy. The emotive appeal to not deny people their “right to die” is the thin end of a wedge which will ultimately open a can of worms which would leave everyone in society worse off, not least those who could go down the road of euthanasia in error.

    Matthew Laurenson
    Irvine Place

  • Michael Garriock

    • January 27th, 2015 21:48

    @ Matthew Laurenson. I could spend another quite lengthy period composing another long response providing counter arguments to all of the points you raise. However I am going to cut straight to the chase instead, and pose to you a purely hypothetical situation. I invite you to offer your perspective on it, as within the given scenario lies the bottom line of this issue.

    Let us suppose then, that in the very near future both you and I are diagnosed with terminal conditions, your’s let us suppose is an inoperable and untreatable malignant tumor, which although predicted to be fatal, you are expected to retain your physical mobility and consciousness reasonably intact until at least death is imminent. I, on the other hand, although also diagnosed with an inoperable and untreatable malignant tumor, I am expected to become largely or fully paralysed and/or slip in to a deep coma virtually imminently, but it is probable despite doing either of those, that with “the right treatment” my death need not be inevitable for anything up to several months in to the future.

    Now, I am not going to presume how you would choose to plan your own treatment in your hypothetical scenario, as you have already noted, you could either put yourself in the hands of medical professionals and the health etc care services of your choice, and be guided by them to wherever they and you agreed was the “best way forward” for you. Or, you could choose to simply accept pain management assistance and let nature take its course.

    Whichever of those you choose, or even if you choose something else, makes absolutely no difference to me whatsoever. As far as I’m concerned its your life, and death, and you have the absolute right to do with both exactly as you see fit, it is none of my concern and absolutely none of my business whatsoever.

    However, as regards my own treatment in my hypothetical scenario, I have no interest in “putting myself in the hands” of medical professionals and health care services, whoever they may be. I have no interest in stottering around zombiefied tanked to the gunwales on “pain relieving” chemical drugs. I want, when the pain reaches the point I can no longer function, and/or I become paralysed, and/or I become comatose, someone somewhere to pull the plug. I don’t much care who they are, or what method they use, as long as they do it and do it successfully, one way or the other.

    I want recognition in statute that it is accepted I have the right to organise my own demise as above, or any other way I might choose, whenever I choose. I also want it removed from statute that anyone associated with me, who may become aware of what I am doing when it is is process, is immune from facing criminal charges for “not summonsing medical assistance”. I also want anyone I come to whatever agreement I choose to have with them to assist me in my demise, to be fully protected in statute from any action taken against them as a result of their actions during the act.

    I am curious as to why you oppose my wishes so strongly. I don’t know you, as far as I know you don’t know me. It is highly unlikely that were I to have my wishes granted that you would ever know it had happened, and even less likely that the event, if it occured would have the slightest effect on you in any way.

    Why does what I, a complete stranger, choose to do to myself and my life come to be a concern of yours, and quite frankly, how in hell does it come to be any of your business in any way whatsoever?

  • David Spence

    • January 27th, 2015 21:55

    But Suzy, where does what you say lie in terms of that individual suffering from a mental health illness or that person in not a rational state of mind?

    Yes, I can see, to a degree, why the right to die should be allowed, but most doctors, I think, would feel uncomfortable about this given their oath to try and save life. As well as this, if the right to die or euthanasia is granted, where does one draw the line in terms of this right being abused for more heinous aspects of putting profit ahead of life…………private care homes, private institutes looking after people with mental health illnesses.

    Granted, there are some diseases that cannot be cured, and the person may suffer the indignity of dying in pain and serious discomfort, and may request to be allowed to die………….but again, how do you assess such a decision based on that person’s illness to this of them rationally and logically thinking.

    I had a very close friend who committed suicide, and I was very surprised that I, and many other people that knew them, did not know this until it was too late.

    Where does one draw the line between the right to die and this of a person wishing the same but they have no physical symptoms to indicate such a decision?

    • Suzy Jolly

      • January 28th, 2015 16:12

      @David Spence – oh the irony … the medical professionals already deem someone not to be in rational state of mind if they contemplate suicide!

      ‘Society’ doesn’t have to choose to assess. ‘Society’ appears to be obsessed with assessments. People are already, right now, starving to death but unless they are prepared to be assessed they can’t even get food parcels.

      Even when assessments are made of someone’s mental capacity to make a Will or alter two, sometimes three times their Will in as many number of months, provided they pass a MMSE conducted by a GP and despite them showing signs of a vast change in their personality, they’re deemed okay and possessing the mental capacity to change their Will … even if 10 minutes after signing it they can’t remember doing so.

      So, if that’s apparently good enough right now for ‘society’, an MMSE, if ‘society’ must continue with its obsessions to assess, why can’t an MMSE be conducted? I don’t think an MMSE includes a question about wanting to die but I could be wrong.

      I too have lost friends to suicide, most of them when I was in my early twenties. Looking back, I respect their decisions to end their lives.

      “Where does one draw the line between the right to die and this of a person wishing the same but they have no physical symptoms to indicate such a decision?”

      It’s not your place to draw the line.

      I never chose to be a member of ‘society’. I’m not sure I want to be a member of a ‘society’ which treats a pet with more dignity than a human being.

      Guess if the law isn’t changed to decriminalise those wanting to assist, there will be others who instead jump off a cliff/step in front of a moving vehicle/be a one under on the tube system/whatever, given that not everyone can afford a trip via Easyjet to Switzerland to end their life by taking a couple of pills. After all, it would appear that ‘society’ deems the fact that many tube drivers can’t work after experiencing a one under to be acceptable, or all the horrific scenes of suicides and their aftermaths to be acceptable should police officers, coastguards, NHS staff, etc., see the mangled bodies – I don’t.

      Some posters appear to carp on about doctors and their existing oath – there’s no reason why doctors have to be involved. Not all medically trained professionals are doctors. A doctor is already required to certify that someone is dead and there’s no reason why that part of it can’t continue but to take the actual medication, why have a doctor present? If ‘society’ must insist on someone being present, someone else with medical training could be present; indeed, there’s no reason why the GMC and the like couldn’t waive the existing oath for doctors choosing to work in the euthanasia field.

      And to be perfectly blunt, the medical professionals are already assisting people. They know how much morphine it takes to kill someone but ‘society’ apparently already turns a blind eye to that. Frankly, I don’t see why a doctor should have more rights than I when it comes to ending my own life. MY LIFE. Not yours. Not theirs. Mine.

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • January 28th, 2015 15:23

    @ Michael,
    Trying to frame the debate in terms of how your death would affect me ignores the impact that changing the law would have on society at large, which is what this debate is actually about. Democratic politics needs to take account of how policies and laws affect everyone in society, and take account of such. In the past, when this debate has been held, the decision was taken that changing this area of the law at the request of a relatively small number of people, could have large detrimental affects for a much larger group of people, and no safeguards could be identified which guaranteed this would not be the case. I happen to agree with that opinion.

    You choosing to have your life ended would probably have no impact on my life whatsoever, as you point out, I don’t think we even know each other. But that is not the point. The point I am making is that to change the legislation to allow assisted suicide would affect sections of society in a potentially drastic way, e.g. elderly, chronically depressed, vulnerable, the medical profession, potential investment in palliative care, 3rd parties benefitting financially etc etc. As an argument about government policy, this discussion we are having must take cognisance of society at large, and should also rely heavily on the evidence from other parts of the world. My motivation for taking up this discussion is that I am personally disturbed by the decline which seems so apparent in nations which have already gone down this road. Belgium for example is now going down the road of allowing euthanasia for children. Nobody can guarantee that this would not end in that same place should the UK go this way. I also believe that there is a silent majority of people who when given all the evidence would rather we did not go down this road.

    Those are emotionally driven towards euthanasia seem to put on a pair of blinkers and ignore the potential consequences, in this discussion, I have tried my best to highlight what I see to be the huge pitfalls are.
    It appears we are going to differ here, and as such I will make this my last post. Rather than end on a negative though, I’d like to suggest once more that there is an alternative for anyone who is faced with circumstances which make them consider suicide. The alternative approach to introducing assisted suicide legislation would be to focus even more on improving the quality of life people experience in their circumstances, through improving of our health service, communities, charities, churches, community groups, improving the quality of life for those who may feel on the margins of society, so that instead of people feeling like they want out of life, they realise that all human life can have dignity, purpose and meaning, no matter what our circumstances may be.

    Matthew Laurenson
    Irvine Place

  • David Spence

    • January 28th, 2015 17:41

    @ Suzy Jolly – I take onboard what you have said Suzy, but surely societies obligation is to try and preserve life, and not to allow a person to just kill themselves because their life circumstances or health dictates the only course they see in getting out of a situation they find difficult to cope with?

    Yes Suzy, it is your life and if you want to end it, it should be your right…….or should it?

    I agree that such action may be appropriate if medical intervention fails and you are still suffering due to physical pain and trauma……….but should you have the same right if you were suffering from a mental health issue like depression and for society to do nothing to try and resolve this before it is too late?

    What is your stance on societies obligation to preserving life to this of allowing a person to die just because they want to without first assessing their circumstances, and doing your best to try and stop them making such a final decision? If you had a loved one, would you say to them ‘ It is your life, do as you want ‘ or would you try your best to care for them and prevent them from making such a decision?

    In saying ‘ MY LIFE. Not yours. Not theirs. Mine. ‘ indicates to me that society or loved ones should do nothing to try and prevent you from such a decision………but they have to cope with the aftermath of it. Surely it is their right to try and prevent you from taking your own life?

    Granted, you could commit suicide and loved ones would still have to cope…………but………if society and loved ones were given the warning signs, it is societies and your loved ones right to do everything they can…….as mentioned.

    Yes, it is very much a contentious subject and there are many contradictions between preserving life and balancing this with individual rights…………………..but to say because it is your life, and you have the right to end it with the full support of society (excluding loved ones) I feel is going down a very slippery slope.

  • Suzy Jolly

    • January 28th, 2015 18:26

    “The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right… The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” John Stuart Mill

    ^ That’s what many laws are based upon, John Stuart Mill’s harm principle.

    Re “sovereign” – I’m not the property of the state ergo the state should have no say in whether or not I choose my own death.

  • Michael Garriock

    • January 28th, 2015 19:19

    @ Matthew Laurenson. The crux here as I see it anyway, is this thing you describe as “society” and its definition.

    I won’t be as presumptuous as make any comment concerning your personal definition of society until and unless you state what it is. However my own definition is that “society” is simply a descriptive term for a largely uncontrolled phenomena, which by definition is constantly evolving and reinventing itself. I find the vast majority, if not almost all of “society” a distasteful and unimpressive chaotic shambles of which I want no part and do take no part, and if the choice were put to me to choose between being within society, or be wholly outside it, I would opt for being outside it without hesitation.

    The problem with this so called “society” in much of the world today, and especially within the western world, is that no-one is ever asked if they wish to be part of it, or told they’re part of it, it is just assumed that they are. Which might be okay, if there was a viable way to remove oneself from “society” completely if one wished to, but there isn’t, as regardless how much one may try, “society” keeps pursuing you and uses every means at their disposal to drag you back. It could well be argued “society” behaves like an occupying force towards those within the area it encompasses, continually prodding those who drift away towards its fringes to “get back with the program”.

    In the world today, the best anyone wishing to distance themselves as far from society as they possibly can, can do, short of relocating somewhere up the Amazonian jungle, is to reject and ignore as much as possible of the “society” which surrounds them, and proceed, or otherwise with their life as they see fit despite this “society” which is obsessed with engulfing them.

    Luckily in the UK at least we still have the freedom of choice and right of self-determination to close the door on the vast majority of “society” if we wish to do so, but only in life. In dying and in death, suddenly the rules change, regardless of one’s wishes to the contrary, a person is scooped up and carried away to be poked, prodded, possibly cut open, and more likely than not filled full of more chemicals than most folk know exists, “for their own good”, and because they “don’t know what they’re saying”.

    I have no wish to see legislation put in place which results in anyone being abused as a result of it, but by the same token I do not wish to see legislation which already exists that is resulting in people being abused, (as that is what is occuring and has been occuring for a long time by not permitting those who wish to, to plan and carry out their own death when they choose to and in a manner of their choosing), remaining on the statute books one second longer than it must.

    For those who self-identify as being a part of “society”, I have no problem with them seeking and getting whatever “protection” they wish from that “society”, but I object very strongly that those who have chosen and made every effort in life to distance themselves as far as possible from “society”, are suddenly when least able to resist, dragged kicking and screaming back in to the “program” they have no wish to be part of, and forced to endure the one thing they wish to avoid at all costs.

    To try and claim just because those who have already tried to put in place a system that abuses no-one and everybody’s wishes are catered to have not made a very good job of it, is not IMHO a good enough reason to state it cannot be done, especially without even trying to design a better system ourselves.

    I find the argument that assisted suicide should not be considered on account of its effect on societal attitudes and perceptions, very weak at best. “Society” by definition is an extremely fickle beast, and quite frankly its attitudes and perceptions are as easily changed as featuring a relevant storyline on one or two of the most popular soaps. In any case, regardless of what attitude or perception “society” holds, I would argue that the rights of freedom of choice and self-determination of the individual in matters of their own life and death vastly over-ride any rights “society” perceives it holds.

  • David Spence

    • January 29th, 2015 23:50

    OK Suzy, I’ll be blunt and straight to the point.

    If you are not working, have no children, husband or relatives, have no friends or close acquaintances, have no working friends or colleagues, have your own home with a fully paid mortgage (if you have one) have no debts to society or private businesses, have no dependence on any other people…………sure, it is your life and if you want to end it, that is your choice.

    However, if you fit into one or more of the categories mentioned above, then society, loved ones and other people who may be close to you, do get involved and could be affected seriously by your actions.

    You are right in saying it is your body, and you can do as you please with it in terms of whether or not you decide to end your life……………..but please make sure people that are living after your demise do not suffer or do the same as what you have done as a consequence of your actions.

    • Rachel Buchan

      • February 1st, 2015 20:01

      I don’t own my own home so if I opted for assisted suicide in the future, that would be a council house freed up for someone else who needs it. And what is a debt to society?
      And as Suzy says, one’s demise could be hastened by any number of unforseen incidents – in which case there would be any amount of supposedly important “ends to tie up” which would never be tied up.
      Sadly, there is no such thing as a perfect exit from this world.

  • Suzy Jolly

    • January 31st, 2015 15:48

    @David Spence

    Are you joking? “Hello [enter name of bank] Customer Services, I’m planning to exit this world by assisted suicide but don’t worry, I’ll ensure the £15 I’ve inadvertently gone overdrawn by will be paid before I die.”

    Blow it, I could get hit by a bus first/electrical fire burns down the gaff/have a heart attack and never paid it anyway.

  • David Spence

    • February 2nd, 2015 10:24

    Yes, I may have been a little bit abrupt, and did not take into consideration other unforeseen circumstances which may dictate the ending of your life.

    However, my point being is that no matter what the circumstances may be to the demise of your life, it will and does affect other people regardless to their connection to you, whether this is relatives or people outwith this circle.

    The crux of the matter is, as far as I can see, should the rights of the individual take precedence over societies obligation to sustain life as best it can under all circumstances?

    Yes Suzy, as you have said ‘ It is your life ‘ but where is the balance between your actions or choice (not taking into consideration unforeseen circumstances) to end your life to this of you as an individual being a positive contributor to the society you live within?

    Ultimately, society or people within your life will have no control if you decide to end your life by what you have described in terms of suicide.

    What role, if any, should society take in assisting you to end your life?

    Just because you can commit suicide, does this exclude societies responsibility to help or try to prevent you taking such action in the first place?

    Where is the balance between your rights as an individual to this of loved one and/or societies rights to try and prevent you from taking your life?

    • Suzy Jolly

      • February 2nd, 2015 19:43

      @David Spence

      Define ‘society’. Define being a positive contributor to ‘society’. So what are you saying, if someone isn’t what you would deem to be a “positive contributor” to ‘society’ that it’s okay then?

      The Government (not ‘society’) could decriminalise assisted suicides. There’s a difference between legalising and decriminalising.

      ‘Society’ doesn’t have the right to try and prevent anyone – it really is that simple. Sure we’re not already living in 1984? Sure this isn’t a nanny state? Which are you advocating, ‘the personal is political’ or ‘the political is personal’?


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