IoS letters, emails & online postings (2 September 2012)

Joan Smith was spot on: while Tony Nicklinson's predicament was tragic, the old adage "hard cases make bad law" is apt ("Tony Nicklinson's legacy: his case will save lives", 26 August).

Family feuds are not uncommon, and the prospect of inherited money can bring out the worst in people. Subtle pressure can be put on vulnerable people (such as the elderly or infirm) to convince them that they would be "better off dead".

It is almost impossible to legislate for the many and varied circumstances that face people with chronic illnesses – which may not be fatal – and the moral dilemmas faced by relatives. As a retired surgeon, I know that doctors go into medicine to save lives and to heal; to kill a patient is the antithesis of their training. There is an enormous difference between allowing a terminally ill patient to die peacefully and painlessly and actively murdering them. Many patients would wonder whether their treatment was designed to cure or to kill.

If the law is to be changed to allow "assisted dying", then I suggest the deed be done by a public executioner − not a doctor.

Malcolm Morrison FRCS

Swindon, Wiltshire

An informed public debate should help overcome existing inhibitions about discussing death, even with those closest to us, and create greater intolerance of neglect and malpractice. The argument is not about "a handful of tragic individuals". It's about extending our humanising concerns to the increasing numbers facing unacceptable deterioration in quality of life. It's about our fear of being left to fend for ourselves and denied support when it's most wanted. But any debate should be as much about why, how and when society has a duty to assist. And it should be about how best to render accountable all involved in the care of the disabled, terminally ill or demented.

Richard Bryden

Llandudno, Conwy

Mo Farah is not "the first Briton to win an Olympic distance event" ("The schoolboy who defied all odds", 12 August). My grandfather Emil Voigt holds that honour, winning gold for England at the 1908 London Olympic Games in the five-mile race, a record he held for 104 years. He was very proud of his win, and put a lot back into the sport, setting up the Amateur Athletic Union and trying to improve conditions for runners and cyclists.

Emil Voigt went on to win many British records and titles, as well as international ones. He was also the first Olympic vegetarian champion in the modern Olympics, and his Olympic record still stands: the five-mile race was replaced after the 1908 Games with the 5,000m and 10,000m.

Robin Voigt

Kurrajong, Sydney, Australia

I do not know how I would be classified by others, but I do not regard myself as black, nor as one of the ethnic minorities ("PM told: 'Minorities are the key'", 26 August). I would not vote for a parliamentary candidate put forward on grounds of skin colour or crinkliness of hair, or because he belonged to a religion whose adherents want a co-religionist to be in power.

Dr J K Anand

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Rugby league may have suffered a decline in the number of participants, but the game is not "a prisoner of the M62 corridor" (Sport, The Last Word, 26 August). The National Conference League and its supporting pyramid has more than 100 clubs outside the M62 corridor, where once there was none. Rugby league is played in every English county – 20 years ago it was played in perhaps four. There are national leagues in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Only Leeds, Hull and Wigan have more teams than London – Greater London has more than 100 adult teams. More than 1,000 teams entered this year's rugby league Champion Schools competitions, up from a handful at the first competition in 2001.

Bradford Bulls may be in financial crisis, but to use the Bulls as a touchstone for the health of rugby league is to ignore the success that has taken place below professional level since 1995.

Michael O'Hare

Northwood, Middlesex

If helium is in short supply ("Up, up & away!", 26 August), perhaps people should blow up their own balloons, as my generation had to.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

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