Letter: How to achieve a dignified death

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Sir: I was interested to read Heather Mills's coverage of the Lords' recommendations on euthanasia and living wills and Bryan Appleyard's curiously conservative interpretation (17 February).

Much is made of 'not allowing people to be killed under compulsion' and that the Lords and the British Medical Association support such an eminently sensible view. Yet little mention is made of the fact that the provision of adequate safeguards is the work of lawyers who, in fact, have been able to draft such safeguards both in the Netherlands and in US proposals. While greater use of living wills has been encouraged, no recommendation has been made about regularising such documents through legislation.

Parliament has again shirked the duty which the courts have asked it to perform - to provide legal guidelines. We all support hospices, but if the rate of increase of support for hospices is maintained, they will require the entire NHS budget in 10 years' time. Meanwhile, there is no legal guarantee that the wishes of patients will be respected - even through the use of living wills that refuse treatment in advance in order to die peacefully (a principle upheld even by recent case law). People whose pain and indignity cannot be relieved are dying horrifying deaths while Parliament continues to enjoy hot air.



Executive Secretary

Voluntary Euthanasia Society

of Scotland