DR Murdo Macdonald argues that Margo MacDonald's revised bill on assisted dying relates to killing people ("Passing a law on assisted dying is a boundary our society must not cross", Herald Agenda, November 14).

As Ms MacDonald has pointed out on several occasions, providing assistance to people who have decided to end their lives is not "killing people". She has also emphasised that, in promoting her bill, this should not be viewed as an alternative to the provision of high quality care which can be provided by experienced practitioners in hospices and elsewhere. It is not an "either or" choice.

At present, those who have made a decision to end their lives, and who can afford to meet the expense involved, can make a demanding journey to Switzerland where the facility exists. This choice is denied to those who cannot meet the costs of travel and accommodation for themselves and for those accompanying them. To this must be added the cost of the service.

The choice is therefore denied to those who are not in a financial position to meet the costs involved.

Timing of the journey is critical, as the person must be able to cope with a journey which can add to the distress of all involved.

While the "patient" is free to change his or her decision right until the final moment, the above factors must act as a disincentive for the decision to be reversed.

Ms MacDonald's bill removes these barriers and the presence of an independent and trained facilitator would mean that the sufferer could more readily postpone the final act or reverse the decision.

The decision to end the suffering from unbearable and unrelieved pain of a loved one can be viewed as an act of great compassion and kindness, and one far removed from the picture painted by Dr Macdonald.

Malcolm Allan,

2 Tofthill Gardens,



DR Murdo Macdonald perpetuates the Church of Scotland myths about death with dignity.

Society crossed that particular boundary long ago. Oregon's Death with Dignity Act has been on the statute books since 1997. Death with dignity is not assisted dying.

The act allows patients with a terminal illness who meet carefully-defined conditions to get a lethal prescription. They can then self-administer the prescription to end their lives.

This is not euthanasia.

The patient has to ask for the prescription twice over a 15-day period. The doctor who writes the prescription must consider the circumstances and mental state of the patient including depression.

Oregon has a population of just under 4m. Since 2002, deaths under the Act have been stable at 40 to 50 per year.

The neighbouring state of Washington passed a similar act in 2008, as did the state of Vermont in 2013.

I lived and worked in Oregon. My best friend, who had terminal bowel cancer, used the Oregon law to end his life in 2006. He expressed the desire for a dignified end to his life long before his cancer was diagnosed. The Oregon law gave him the ability to die on his terms.

Scotland needs a Death with Dignity Act modelled on the Oregon law.

It is a basic human right for an individual to decide their own destiny.

There are circumstances where an individual decides that death is preferable to living with loss of dignity. That should be the individual's choice.

Scottish society must provide the best-quality palliative care for those with a terminal illness. Where this is not enough, we need death with dignity.

John Black,

6 Woodhollow House,