I AGREE with the comments by Doctors Macdonald and McKernan in their opposition to the proposed Assisted Dying Bill (Letters, January 11).

I have probably had more than my fair share of deaths in my family, having suffered the loss of three of my dear sons and my only beloved daughter. Three of them died as the result of terminal illness. I had the experience of watching two of them die and I would not wish that on any parent.

However, I must say that, in general, I found the standard of NHS care to be excellent and the standard of palliative care in our local Strathcarron Hospice was first class. My children undoubtedly underwent some pain but it was minimised by caring health professionals who did everything possible to make their final days as comfortable as possible. As a result, my children died in dignity and I beg to differ from those who assert that the option of assisted suicide is necessary to ensure dignity in death.

I accept that there are cases where there is justification in not prolonging life but that is quite different from actively assisting someone to commit suicide. In the case of one of my sons, he spent his last few days on a life-support machine but, when it became evident that he was not going to recover, the medical professionals consulted family members and we came to the unanimous decision to switch off the machine. It was a difficult, heart-rending decision but I have no doubt that it was justified.

I would not have the same respect for medical professionals if they were to become involved in actively assisting people to commit suicide. If we believe that the right to life is the most basic human right then it follows that no-one has the right to choose to take human life except in defence of another human life. Similarly no-one has the right to classify some human lives as less valuable than others.

I live in the hope that I shall one day be reunited with my lost children. I respect those who do not share my belief but the sanctity of human life should surely be recognised by all human beings, whatever their theological or philosophical beliefs.

For the above reasons, I urge my former colleagues in the Scottish Parliament to vote against the proposed bill.

Dennis Canavan, Bannockburn.

* MY comments (Letters, January 7) regarding suicide were not intended to offend, as I believe all suicides are a tragedy. My main concern in the debate on assisted suicide is that no doctor should have, as part of their professional role, the possibility that they will be asked to put an end to someone's life, no matter how much the person or a relative wants it. I am aware that there may be doctors who already do this, although I have no way of knowing if that statement is correct. We should not, however, legislate for a doctor to kill his/her patient, even if all the necessary legal steps were to be put in place.

Finally, for anyone who thinks I am unaware of the potential suffering of those who might be interested in assisted dying, my sister died from motor neurone disease.

Councillor Eileen McCartin, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Paisley.

* KATHLEEN Gorrie (Letters, January 12) argues that because our society allows, through abortion, the killing of a human before he or she has lived, we should also help those who have lived "fully" to kill themselves.

She is too modest in her conclusion. If we acknowledge a right to kill those we regard as unwanted, burdensome or inconvenient, we must support much more than mere assisted suicide.

Alternatively, we can regain a proper respect for human life, recognising abortion for the horror that it is, instead of citing it to justify further evils.

Richard Lucas, Scottish Family Party, Glasgow.


Lesley Riddoch writes in the subject of statue-toppling ("Why has Scotland not had a Colston statue moment?", The Herald, January 10). She cites as a positive thing the fact that the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonisation Legacy Review Group is set to continue this year with a view to publicly acknowledging and atoning for any part the city has played in benefiting from Atlantic slavery and colonial expansion. She adds that the council is also backing efforts to finance a statue of Scottish Women's Hospitals founder Elsie Inglis.

While Dr Inglis's selfless medical work in various First World War battlefront field hospitals is indeed admirable, Edinburgh City Council might from the word go wish to add a big qualifying plaque to any statue of Elsie pointing out that her great-grandfather Alexander Inglis was a Carolina slave owner. In her 1918 biography of Dr Elsie Inglis, Lady Frances Balfour writes that in a schedule of his property regarding confiscation of his estates occur the items "125 head of black cattle, £125; 69 slaves at £60 a head, £4,140; a pew, No. 31 in St. Michael's church, Charleston, £150; 11 house negroes, £700; and a library of well-chosen books". Alexander Inglis died in a duel in 1791. Elsie's grandfather and father made their lives in India, the former much involved in the 1803 Treaty of Bassein.

In fact there already exist bronze memorials – and others – to Elsie in Edinburgh, at 219 High Street a plaque by Zoe Barker-Moss in connection with a now defunct heritage trail and a bust by Ivan Mestrovic held by the National Portrait Gallery.

C Wilson, Edinburgh.


THANK you to Russell Leadbetter for his choice of photo today ("Remember when ... Argylls returned after a Northern Ireland tour of duty", The Herald, January 11). I had a little weep of happiness as it lifted me out of the solemn news elsewhere on the Letters Pages.

What came to mind, and caused the tears and smile as well, was remembering when Roberta, in the film The Railway Children, saw her long-missing father appearing out of the steam from the train engine and ran towards him calling "Daddy, my daddy". Separation makes us all overflow with joy when we are reunited with loved ones. There was joy on the face of that wee girl in the photo. Things to promote joy are much needed these days, so thanks again to Mr Leadbetter for finding them.

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.


THE old taste buds are gearing up already in anticipation of a new dessert dedicated to our long-serving monarch ("Issue of the day: Platinum Pudding for the Queen", The Herald, January 11).

I hope thought will be given also to a new potation in memory of her consort, the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, never a man to waste time over a mere trifle. Begin with the liquor of your choice and boil the hell out of it.

R Russell Smith, Largs.