IT is sad that the tragic death of Richard Selley is being used to try and justify a campaign to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia.

This campaign seeks to rip up long-held universal protections which ensure the law treats all people equally, regardless of whether they are terminally ill, disabled, have chronic conditions or are able-bodied. Removing these protections will put vulnerable people at risk of abuse and of coming under pressure to end their lives prematurely.

Just last month, a major US report from the National Council on Disability found the laws in the handful of states that had gone down this route, were ineffective and oversight of abuse and mistakes was absent. This was an important report as those championing assisted suicide – like Dignity in Dying, (formally the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) – hold up Oregon and Washington as the model for making the change in Scotland.

These findings resonate with other official reports which show year after year, a majority of those ending their lives in both US states cite fear of becoming a burden as a reason. And it’s not just a few US states that act as a warning against these changes.

In 2016, Canada changed its law to allow terminally ill people to request assisted suicide and euthanasia. In just three years the numbers of those dying in this way has ballooned. Indeed Jocelyn Downie, a Canadian academic reported a four-fold increase between 2016 and 2018, from 1010 to 4235.

There are other problems too.

In September, the Quebec Superior Court struck down the requirement that a person be terminally ill before they qualify for euthanasia in Canada.

In July a depressed, but otherwise healthy, 61-year-old man, was euthanised in the province of British Columbia. Alan Nichols, a former school janitor who lived alone, had struggled with depression, was admitted to Chilliwack General Hospital, BC, in June, after he was found dehydrated and malnourished. Despite not being terminally ill, he received a lethal injection. Worryingly, his case is not isolated.

There are a growing number of reports that terminally ill patients and those with chronic conditions are being denied care, but offered the drugs to kill themselves.

In one such case, Roger Foley from Ontario, who suffers from a neurological disease, recorded hospital staff offering him a "medically assisted death" despite his repeated statements that he did not want to die and wanted to return to his home.

No wonder not a single doctors group or major disability rights organisation supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.

And no wonder Parliamentarians across the UK have repeatedly rejected attempts to introduce assisted suicide and euthanasia – more than 10 times since 2003 – out of concern for public safety, including in 2015 when the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly voted against any change in the law by 82 votes to 36.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, CEO, Care Not Killing, Glasgow G1.

I AM prompted by Ally Thomson’s comments ("‘Eleven people a week dying in agony is eleven too many’", The Herald, October 14) to offer a few comments of my own following 38 years as a physician in the NHS.

It was my experience that the majority of individuals dying in hospital did so peacefully, experiencing little or no discomfort. This outcome was assisted by close cooperation with the local hospice.

A small number had an uncomfortable end. If time had allowed, a significant proportion of these individuals would have been relieved by appropriate palliative care. We are left with a very small number of individuals “resistant” to good palliative measures. It is important, therefore, for politicians to get the facts of this matter in perspective with particular regard to enacting legislation.

I am not, in principle, opposed to assisted suicide but am concerned that a subject in need of dispassionate consideration is often the subject of emotional discourse. Furthermore, much of the “evidence” proffered in its support comes from personal opinion and anecdote.

I counsel the medical profession against an active role in assisted suicide. It is essential that patients have implicit faith in their physician’s motives. Any question of a dual role could erode the vital element of trust.

Dr Finlay Kerr, Inverness.