WHO would not feel compassion for the suffering of the patients, and the agony of their loved ones, described by Lesley Cullan and Tracy McNally (Letters, June 26)? Death is not the worst thing that can happen to any of us, and I am sure if my life were excruciating, or terrifying, or unremittingly miserable, I would want it to stop. The Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl tells us otherwise in his book Yes to Life in Spite of Everything (Rider, 2020) but he was entitled to hold that view. I haven’t been to Auschwitz.

The trouble arises when you try to define in law the conditions under which you might legally assist a patient to commit suicide. Apparently the Assisted Dying (Scotland) Bill is supported by 86% of the Scottish public, but how many of us have read the bill? I searched for it online and I can’t find it. You would have thought something this critically important would be easy to track down. I do however have before me the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, introduced by the late Margo MacDonald on November 13, 2013. I was present when Ms MacDonald presented its content at an annual conference of the Royal College of General Practitioners. The bill allowed for anybody of sound mind, over the age of 16, who considers their quality of life to be unacceptable because of an illness that is terminal or life-shortening, to be helped to die. I have lost count of the number of afternoons I have spent with patients, some of them aged 16, trying to persuade them that life after all was worth the candle. How much easier it would have been to say: “Now, are you sure you’ve thought this through?” and then produce the requisite forms. The trouble is, everybody is terminally ill, and nobody is quite of sound mind. Who am I to judge somebody else’s quality of life?

It seems to me that the attempt to define what constitutes a life not worth living is beyond the capacity of the law, not because our law-makers aren’t clever enough, but because no number of legal safeguards can anticipate the vicissitudes of each of our own unique lives. It’s a kind of Heisenberg uncertainty principle applied to our quotidian experience; life just isn’t like that. Paradoxically, the full force of the law might even obliterate the wriggle room in which doctors already move to relieve suffering. Rather than creating the blunt instrument of a new law, I would simply highlight a change in emphasis, and the necessity not to pursue medical interventions that are futile, by changing the word “need’st” in Arthur Hugh Clough’s famous The Latest Decalogue to “must”. Hence:

Thou shalt not kill, yet must not strive

Officiously to keep alive.

Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling.

* THE two letters in Saturday's Herald on assisted dying were heartbreaking. Lesley Cullan and Tracy McNally described their fathers' deaths so movingly and it must have been very difficult for them to do so.

It is dreadful that prolonged and unnecessary suffering should still be compulsory in 2021.

Is it really beyond our capabilities to devise a system of end-of-life care that protects the rights of the vulnerable while making it possible for terminally ill people to die a peaceful and dignified death at a time of their choosing?

Where is our simple humanity?

Carole Jesmont, Glasgow.


I AGREE wholeheartedly with Kevin McKenna ("Misguided help to die bill talks of dignity in death yet we deny it to many in life", The Herald, June 28),

Assisted dying legislation would in my view have a number of unintended consequences, and would inevitably put undue pressure on some people to consider ending their lives so that they would not be a "burden" on friends and family, when what is really needed is appropriate (and well funded) palliative care at the end of life, be it in a residential or home care setting.

I spent a lifetime in social work, and can recall cases where we were supporting people toward the end of their lives who on the surface had no relatives able to care for them, but who then had "friends at the end" who appeared to offer help in dealing with the deceased's affairs.

What is needed is a well-funded social care system to support people in life and at the point when they depart this Earth. Dignity in dying,yes, but let's have due regard to the sanctity of life.

Ron Lavalette, Ardrossan.


RICHARD McKenzie is a man after my own heart. His letter re flags (June 28) typifies the ignorance most people show regarding the Union Flag. It is dismaying that few people even know which way up it should be – you showed a picture in your paper some years ago of an RN ship in Glasgow with the Union Jack upside down (a signal of distress). I had occasion to visit the dock on business that day and pointed it out to the ship’s gangway guard who really took some convincing to call an officer. The flag was hoisted the correct way.

Steve Barnet, Gargunnock.


DAVID Clark's surprise (Letters, June 28) at the omission of "nother" from Maureen Sudgen's list of irksome words (Issue of the day, June 25) prompted research. Thinking that the word must be peculiar to the Tarbolton area, I, too, was surprised on finding in Mrs Molesworth's The Story of a Spring Morning", 1890, "I don't know what we shall do if we if we have to be a whole 'nother day in the house".

It seems that nother or 'nother has been around for some time.

David Miller, Milngavie.