JOHN Deighan (Letters, February 14) views the movement supporting assisted suicide as undermining the "protections of the right to life for all members of society".

It seems to me that an ever-increasing number of people in this country while, rather obviously, supporting the right to life, simply want to complement that right with, under certain circumstances, the right to die. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I wonder if the debate could benefit from being carried out in two stages: firstly on the principle behind assisted suicide; namely, are there circumstances where an individual, in principle, has the right to ask that his/her life be brought to an end? In short, is it reasonable for people in full control of their mental faculties to decide "enough is enough"?

If a significant number of us agree in principle to assisted suicide, as seems to be the case, then we move to the more difficult, practical, second stage of the debate, namely, can we legislate to ensure that, for those who do not wish to end their lives, their rights are not only fully protected but that they can, without impediment, access the best medical and social service available, for example hospice care, to ensure that their last days are as painless and as dignified as possible?

It is possible that we could accept the principle of assisted suicide but not find a watertight practical system that would offer sufficient protection to our most vulnerable citizens (accepting stage one but rejecting stage two). However, perhaps our finest legal minds, able to benefit from the experience of countries that have already engaged in assisted suicide, could produce a blueprint sufficiently robust to offer peace of mind to Mr Deighan on this crucial point even if he continued to oppose the principle. Under those circumstances, I would hope those opposed to assisted suicide would respect the rights of those who support it, secure in the knowledge that there could be no undermining of the protections of the right to life for those who do not want to actively end their lives.

Jim White,

44 Ravenswood Drive, Glasgow.

I MUST leap to the defence of your Health Correspondent, Helen Puttick, following the letter from John Deighan criticising her Inside Track article about meeting Gordon Ross, who wishes to have the law clarified if he were to take his own life ("An interview that will stay with me for a long time", The Herald, February 13).

In all my dealings with Ms Puttick she has been professional, sensitive, objective and fair-minded to all sides of the assisted suicide argument. To quote her directly: "Care Not Killing have some very reasonable arguments"; that is hardly being one-sided.

Sheila Duffy,

3 Hamilton Drive, Glasgow.