PERHAPS Gordon Caskie (Letters, February 11) ought to read Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium by Professor Benoit Beuselink, a cancer doctor, who reported that personnel are leaving palliative care departments, saying the wards are at risk of becoming “houses of euthanasia".

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2003, and permits the voluntary killing of people who are terminally ill, suffering from psychiatric illnesses, have dementia, or believe their mental suffering is unbearable. In 2014, the law was amended to permit the euthanasia of dependent children. The number of doctor-assisted deaths doubled within five years, up from 954 in 2010 to 2,021 in 2015.

Prof Beuselink reveals the worrying evolution of legalised euthanasia in Belgium where palliative care units, meant to make dying patients feel more comfortable, are used as dumping grounds for people who want to be killed. Hospital doctors who are uncomfortable with their requests simply send them to the palliative care wards, where euthanasia has become “a normal way of dying”.

Experience in Belgium, the Netherlands, Oregon and Washington shows that legalised euthanasia leads to incremental extension and mission creep as some doctors will actively extend the categories of those to be included (from mentally competent to incompetent, from terminal to chronic, from adults to children, from assisted suicide to euthanasia).

Persistent requests for assisted suicide and euthanasia are extremely rare if people are properly cared for, so our priority must be to ensure that good care addressing people's physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs is accessible to all. Patients almost always change their minds about euthanasia when they experience good care. A good doctor can kill the pain without killing the patient.

Proponents of assisted suicide in general use emotive language and hard cases as an argument for its legalisation. Hard cases make bad law. In a free democratic society we accept limits to our own freedom in order to safeguard the interests of vulnerable others. The primary function of the law is to protect the vulnerable many, not grant liberties to the determined and desperate few. They are sincere in their beliefs; but what matters here is what is good for society. The law must uphold life and protect the vulnerable. Every single life has inherent worth and dignity and we should never forget this.

Martin Conroy,

2 The Orchard, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire.

I FULLY support the view the views expressed by Gordon Caskie and it is time this generation actually faced up to reality – no matter how we avoid discussing it, we are all, one day, going to die. It is simply a fact of life, the consequences of birth, but one few are prepared to consider or even address.

Another issue that has to be taken into account is the ability of the health service to prolong life.

Is it not time, in a civilised society, we had a serious debate about this issue – cut away all the emotional aspects and simply both recognise and respect the dignity of the individual who, with incurable disease but is of sound mind and painfully aware of the "path" they are on, simply to say "Thank you – I have enjoyed my life but now I want to go"?

Clearly I am not advocating that this route be compulsory, and am alert to the possibilities of some greedy offspring wishing to get their hands on the money, but I do believe that every individual should have this option.

This is an issue that we really do need to talk about – it affects everyone.

Alan McKinney,

Smiddy Wynd, Edinburgh.