THE headline on Neil Mackay's article ("Esther Rantzen deserves a humane death. As do we all", The Herald, December 21) sums up what everyone ought to wish for everyone - a humane death. There is indeed common ground for those who advocate and those who oppose assisted suicide.

But Mr Mackay's perspective - fuelled by Esther Rantzen's high-profile views - implies that the assisted suicide is the best way to solve end-of-life suffering. It is understandably logical for the individual but is it actually best for a caring society?

As I stated in my earlier article ("Death must not be used as a treatment for suffering... but priorities do need to change", The Herald, September 16) there is a better way - a third way - that acknowledges our mortality but precludes the perils of regarding death as a treatment.

The third way involves a cultural shift away from the "strive to survive" imperative that dominates life in the NHS. It involves prioritising hospice-like services - at home or in hospitals - so that they are no longer funded marginally as a charity but as a core business to which everyone using the NHS has a right.

Professor D Robin Taylor, Edinburgh.

Read more: The right to die: Could Esther Rantzen's agony change barbaric laws?

Beware the right to suicide

NEIL Mackay presents a dramatic but inaccurate picture of dying. His fears of what he might face in the future are very understandable but he may be comforted to know that most deaths are peaceful.

Of course, it would be foolish to think that all will go out peacefully; I have witnessed a death that was not peaceful. But assisted dying as a solution is simple, neat - and wrong. Facts and a cool head are necessary in this emotional discussion. What is likely to happen if we provide death as medical treatment?

At the outset, let us be clear about what is proposed in the UK: assisted suicide, where the patient ingests or injects deadly poison. Euthanasia is where the doctor delivers a lethal injection. “Assisted dying” is simply marketing-speak for either the patient or the doctor ending a life. The discussion will be helped by honesty.

Let us look at evidence. In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for 25 years, not one poll reveals pain as even in the top five reasons why people take the option. Pain - in every country where it is legal - is not why people do it. Moreover, where it is legal, assisted suicide and euthanasia do not solve the problem; a study from the Netherlands indicates that up to 42.8% of dying people experience pain and restlessness in their final hours and days.

Mr Mackay should be reassured that nobody is likely to be prosecuted for assisting a suicide here or in Switzerland. In 2010, the Director of Public Prosecutions (Sir Keir Starmer) instructed authorities not to prosecute individuals under the 1961 Suicide Act if it was not in the public interest. As a result, from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2023, only four successful prosecutions have taken place for assisted suicide.

Where it is legal, we know that categories of eligible people expand. In Canada, which legalised it in 2016, the requirement of dying was removed in 2020 - making anyone suffering from a permanent disability eligible - and from March next year all suffering from mental illness will qualify. In the Netherlands, there is a proposal for all over-75s who are “tired of life” to qualify.

Mr Mackay needs to think through what he proposes. The “right to die” cannot be instituted without a right to suicide. Does he really want that? As an atheist, I quite agree with Mr Mackay that religion should have no place in our laws. But there are many excellent secular reasons for resisting legalising assisted dying. I urge him to think again.

Professor Kevin Yuill, CEO of Humanists Against Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Glasgow.

Now withdraw the gender bill

THE Scottish Government has made a wise decision, however reluctantly, not to appeal the court ruling upholding the UK Government’s blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill ("UK Government ‘will seek costs over gender reform laws battle’", The Herald December 21).

The timing of this announcement is especially poignant as it is exactly one year since this deeply flawed and troubling piece of legislation was rushed through Holyrood in the days - and indeed nights - immediately preceding last Christmas.

This bill was based on the objectively false narrative that biological sex is illusory, and had it been implemented, would have had multiple damaging consequences, especially for Scotland’s young people.

The Scottish Government should now do the right thing and withdraw the bill entirely.

Michael Veitch, Scotland Policy Officer, CARE, Glasgow.

Read more: We must protect free higher education or Thatcher will have truly won

Fond memories and sound advice

I WOULD like to add my tribute to your past wonderful farming columnist, Charlie Allan (Letters, December 20). I looked forward to every Monday morning article, full of whimsy, humour, information and love of nature. He articulated so much - and shared his love of travel to far parts, Africa in particular, plus his pride in being one of the first in Scotland to have his own windmill.

I engaged with him after reading various articles about the menace of magpies. One dusk, after seeing 35 magpies on a tree at the foot of our garden, I contacted Charlie, and was given excellent advice. It’s interesting to muse on hearing a piece very recently on BBC 4 Today programme, that magpies are now considered a somewhat endangered species. Perhaps some have been listening to Charlie? As the songbirds, blue tits and sparrows had disappeared from our garden, and it took 12 years for a song thrush to appear in the small birds’ feeding cage (celebrated by champagne), and nature resurrected, I’m not crying crocodile tears.

Thank you Charlie, and my condolences to his family.

Lesley Mackiggan, Glasgow.

The Herald: Derek AdamsDerek Adams (Image: SNS)

From Larsson to the lows

DEREK Adams is spot on when he says the standard of Scotland football is shocking ("Adams takes swipe at standards in Scotland", The Herald, December 17).

This is best illustrated by Premiership Livingston signing a player from the sixth tier of English football. Say no more.

Ah well, we can always watch Larsson, Laudrup et al on YouTube.

Roy Gardiner, Kilmarnock.