CHRIS Whitty recently argued that “modern medicine is amazing at keeping people alive and extending life”. Terminality is therefore an increasingly poor and insufficient metric in deciding who can have access to a compassionate assisted release. The degree of unabated and continuing suffering surely must be at the core of this debate. Anything else condemns the many who have unbearable but not “terminal” conditions to a tortured life extended by medical science. The NHS was created to protect us, not to torture us.

The current Assisted Dying Bill ("Ross set to cast vote against assisted dying bill", The Herald, March 29) is a cul-de-sac that will serve an increasing minority of sufferers it hopes to help, while abandoning the majority to continue suffering.

There must be a provision in assisted dying legislation for “exceptional circumstances” involving non-terminal suffering, where there is no effective cure available, now or within a reasonable time-frame, and where the current and future quality of life of an individual is recognised to be unsupportable by any compassionate standard.

Exceptional circumstances could recognise that:

• the quality of life of the individual is catastrophically poor and likely to continue to be so;

• the above is supported by medical experts;

• the individual is of sound mind, well-informed and has agency in relation to all available choices;

• and ensure that effective regulation is in place to protect and support the individual in their choices.

Such an amendment is currently absent from the proposed Scottish legislation. The devil is in the detail of what will be recognised as terminal and what will not. We are dealing with a Devil’s Lottery with no winners and only degrees of tragic loss and suffering, and only some of whom will qualify for assisted dying relief. Those whose suffering can be equally unbearable, and in some cases perhaps worse, but who are regarded as non-terminal will be left to suffer, or to starve themselves to death, or (for the few who can afford it) go abroad.

The insistence on limiting compassionate support to those qualifying terminal conditions persists in the current Holyrood Bill. I fear this will do a great disservice to the great many long-term sufferers who will be denied a compassionate choice and forced to put themselves and their loved ones through unnecessary and cruel additional suffering at the end of their life. Surely we can do better.

After all, whose life is it anyway?

Jason Robertson, Glasgow.

Many questions to be answered

AS a retired GP who happens to believe that every life is precious, I would dread the situation my colleagues would be faced with regarding a patient requesting assisted dying (AD).

First, prognosis problems: many times relatives say "the doctors said he/she might survive three months" only for the patient to last 10 years. Second, have all possible resources been explored? Not when palliative care is a lottery in the NHS.

And if a doctor refuses on conscience to allow AD, can a second doctor refuse on conscience and how often can this happen? Ccan a doctor who doesn't know the family judge whether there is pressure on the patient?

Why should cancer sufferers who are mentally clear and not in pain be allowed AD but dementia patient or ones with chronic illness and pain not be included? Is there a requirement that the patient informs his next of kin?

Some doctors will forever be judged killers if disputes arise and many who always wanted to relieve suffering and hold life sacred will leave an already-stressed and undermanned NHS.

Alastair Rigg, Eaglesfield.

• I GRADUATED in medicine from Glasgow University in 1968. Immediately prior to the graduation ceremony, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine administered the Hippocratic Oath to the entire class.

On January 22 this year I sent an email to Professor Malcolm Shepherd, Dean of Undergraduate Medicine, Glasgow University. I asked if graduating medical students were still required to take the oath, and, if yes, I requested a copy of the text employed. I have received neither acknowledgement of my question nor answer.

The version of the oath in front of me states, inter alia: "Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so." Thus the oath forbids involvement in deliberate killing, whether directly or indirectly.

William Durward, Bearsden.

READ MORE: Assisted Dying Bill: the three major flaws

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Concern over croft sale

THERE is a recognised concern within the crofting community regarding the recent advertisement of sale of a croft tenancy seemingly based on market value in Knoydart, as reported by you ("Croft near Mallaig, Inverness-shire put on market for sale", heraldscotland, March 27).

The assignation of a crofting tenancy follows a specific process. One of the functions that we have as the Crofting Commission is to regulate this process. I’d like to make clear to readers that any assignation must be approved by us. This ensures the suitability of the proposed new crofter and protects the long-term sustainability of crofting communities. Whilst we have no locus to intervene in the matter of assignations being sold on the property market, we do have a duty to reflect any concerns of the crofting community that sales such as these may not accord with the spirit of the legislation. However, we have no real influence over the price that such tenancies are sold for.

Crucially, successful candidates for a crofting tenancy must demonstrate their commitment to fulfilling the three pillars of crofting: Residence: The new crofter must ensure that they are resident within 32km of the croft.

Cultivation: The land must be used productively for agricultural purposes.

Not to misuse and neglect: The new crofter should contribute to the wider crofting community and its shared goals in addition to ensuring that their croft is kept in good condition.

The Crofting Commission plays a vital role in safeguarding the future of crofting. Our approval process for tenancy assignation was designed to ensure tenancies go to individuals and families who understand and value the unique responsibilities associated with crofting.

We urge all stakeholders to uphold the spirit of the crofting legislation. Our aim is the continuation of this valuable tradition by ensuring croft tenancies are assigned to those committed to the future of prosperous and vibrant crofting communities.

Gary Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, Crofting Commission, Inverness.

Ferries: things could be worse

MICHAEL Luck (Letters, March 28) puts the four-fold overrun of costs on the CalMac ferries into context in comparison to a number of other projects. To his list I can add an entire fleet of wooden battleships built for the United States Navy when that country entered the First World War. None of the boats was ever used to transport troops to Europe and they were effectively redundant on completion. At least 100 of these ships were scuttled and burnt, and now lie in Mallows Bay on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. At least we only have two ships to deal with.

On a more serious note, there are two calculations which need to be made. The first is the cost to completion of each ferry and the second is the cost of procuring equivalent ferries from scratch. If the first cost is higher than the second then building work should cease immediately and plans made to turn the ships into floating hotels or restaurants moored somewhere on the Clyde.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh.

Visitor centres must be saved

THE planned closure of its iCentres by VisitScotland is bad news ("On-street tourist information centres to close", The Herald, March 28).

The local knowledge of their staff can help make the most of a visit: not everything of interest can be posted online and the internet in many parts of the Highlands can be unreliable.

There are lots of us who appreciate a welcoming smile from their staff and a helpful chat about the local area.

Tourism is one of the Government's six growth sectors for special focus. It contributes around five per cent of the country's GDP and provides some 7% of total employment. With the importance of this sector, why not retain the iCentres for another two years, in parallel with the improved digital offering, and hear the views of those who use them? Scotland is a world-class tourist destination and deserves top-class facilities. We've lost most public toilets, now it's going to be on-street tourist information centres, and what next?

"Second-guessing" that tourists don't see the need for the iCentres seems high-handed. If budgets are stretched then consider a tourist tax: 80% of European countries have them.

Henry Perfect, Bearsden.

The Herald: VisitScotland centres such as this one in Lerwick are earmarked for closureVisitScotland centres such as this one in Lerwick are earmarked for closure (Image: David Dixon/Geograph)

• WHO at VisitScotland decided that all of its visitor centres should close and why? Apparently the trend is now for people to check online before they travel. Perhaps some do, but that is patently untrue on the Isle of Bute.

We still attract, in fairly large numbers, day trippers on coaches and on occasions large cruise ships. Those tourists/travellers most certainly visit Bute Discovery and Information Centre, the iconic building that is the Winter Gardens, which also houses a recently modernised and very comfortable cinema. The building also has a restaurant area overlooking the amazing Rothesay Bay. Several chefs have tried to make a success of this facility but the extortionate lease fees charged by Visit Scotland make it a less than attractive and viable proposition. It lies empty and has done so for a number of years.

The Winter Gardens has a very powerful presence in the conservation area that is Rothesay town centre. A number of years ago it survived a demolition scare and thanks to such luminaries as Sir Richard Attenborough and Johnny Beattie (and a team of locals) it survived and was upgraded to its current excellent condition.

My understanding is that VisitScotland purchased the building for £1. Perhaps it could now be returned to the community on Bute for £1. Hopefully to continue as the much-loved Isle of Bute Discovery and Information Centre, not forgetting the cinema with the possibility of a restaurant.

Dan Edgar, Rothesay.

Can we save Aye Write?

IT’S aw wrang that Creative Scotland’s withdrawal of £77,500 funding means that the Aye Write festival in Glasgow has been cancelled ("'A real kick in the teeth': Authors' fury as Aye Write is cancelled",The Herald, March 29). As Damian Barr states in Gaby McKay’s article, this represents “a real kick in the teeth for Scotland’s cultural sector”. First Minister Humza Yousaf has said that his administration would look at the “potential support” that might be provided for this “cultural icon” but I am not holding my breath. With thanks to Paul Simon, “What are you going to do about it, that’s what I want to know?”

Well, I have £50, about half a tankful’s worth of petrol, burning a hole in my pocket, to help restart the festival. Are there a few hundred more of us out there also willing to take the bus and leave the car at home for a few days to help put the show back on the road?

Bob Scott, Drymen.