Euthanasia backed for early babies, but denied to the sane elderly
Sir: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology's submission to the Nuffield Council asking that it seriously look at the possibility of active euthanasia for the most-ill newborns is puzzling me (report, 16 November).
Another royal medical college, the Royal College of Physicians, is opposed to assisted dying for terminally ill adults who are mentally competent and who make that choice.
In the first case, the babies cannot make a decision and yet the possibility of active euthanasia is recommended for serious consideration. In the second case, adults who are competent to make a choice are deprived of that right.
The Church of England and the Christian Medical Fellowship also say that in some cases it is best to withhold treatment that will only prolong the suffering of severely ill babies. The same bodies, by opposing choice for assisted dying by competent terminally ill adults, are prolonging the terrible suffering, pain and indignity that are many people's lot at the end of their lives.
Polls show that most people, including individual members of religious bodies, favour a change in the law to give competent terminally ill adults a choice about how their lives should end. If only the Government would give effect to that wish.
G W R GOODWIN
Sir: The recent report from the Nuffield Council on bioethics contains a concerning set of proposals regarding the care and treatment of premature babies. To place a blanket ban on the treatment of babies born at 22 weeks gestation or under, because they may have a disability, is dangerous.
Saving the life of a child carries with it a cost, but for the Nuffield Council to say some children are not worth that price is morally wrong. We urge all decision-makers to value the lives of all our children, including disabled children, and continue to act in their best interests.
HEAD OF CAMPAIGNS AND POLICY, MENCAP, LONDON EC1
The Hunting Act has wide public support
Sir: I must take issue with your leading article (20 November) in defence of fox-hunting. To consider the unnecessary killing of foxes to be on a moral par with smoking, adultery or obesity exposes a gross lack of understanding of the issue.
The Hunting Act 2005 is a weak piece of legislation but its principle is essentially right. Far from repealing it, the Act must be strengthened and the loopholes closed. Encouraging the police to ignore the Act, as your editorial suggests, is irresponsible and morally indefensible.
The Act came into being on a wave of public support and consistent overwhelming majorities in the Commons, which by definition is a consensus. The argument against hunting was won fair and square on moral grounds alone, not on the spurious notion of "class war".
Just as cock-fighting, dog-fighting, hare-coursing and bear-baiting have no place in a civilised society, neither does hunting with dogs. That principle is now enshrined in law, no matter how weakly, and as such it is the duty of the state to enforce it.
WEST WICKHAM, KENT
Sir: Gillian Newsum repeats two myths about foxes. The first is that foxes have no protection except for the Hunting Act. Under British law, it is illegal to poison, use leghold traps, drown or gas foxes. The suggestions by some that these are legitimate "alternative" methods demonstrate ignorance of the law.
The second is that foxes are officially pests. They are not listed as such by Defra. Environment Canada (a federal government department) claims they are "usually appreciated by [Canadian] farmers" because they "eat vast numbers of crop-destroying small mammals and insects". In the US, they are actively promoted to rural tourists as "watchable wildlife". It is time we in the UK learnt to live peacefully alongside one of our most interesting and intelligent wild mammals.
Sir: I do not believe that the Hunting Act is failing but rather that the authorities have yet to enforce it with sufficient vigour.
We must not allow any legislation to be seen as unenforceable just because an unruly element of our society decides to label it as such. There cannot be one set of rules for thugs on a housing estate and another for thugs on a country estate.
MRS G E PURSER
Sir: I don't know what gave me greater pleasure, the account of hunts getting on and doing what hunts do best, controlling the growing fox population at the request of local interested parties, your remarkably sensible and pragmatic response to it, or the thought of a few noses being put of joint in the repellent coalition that pushed through Parliament one of the worst-conceived and constructed pieces of legislation for many years.
J E S BRADSHAW
Sir: I am intrigued about the insurance of fox hunts. It is now out in the open that most fox-hunting is intentionally illegal.
As a hunt monitor, I have recorded collisions between hounds on cry after a fox, and vehicles on public roads. Already this year, I have footage of hounds very close to A roads, and hunt personnel galloping up and down amid traffic trying to guess where the hounds may burst forth.
The hunts have always relied greatly on their insurance. You cannot insure an illegal activity. It appears that the hunts are prepared to risk causing serious road accidents without cover.
Burma's immense regional importance
Sir: You say the West has a moral duty to attempt to persuade China and others that supporting the brutal regime in Burma "for the sake of a few energy contracts" is a very bad investment (Leading article, 18 November).
The West indeed has a moral duty to speak out about human rights abuses in Burma, and the US State Department Political Under-Secretary Nicholas Burns has recently stated: "We've made Burma into an object of real concern. It is the front and centre in our relationship with China."
But the Chinese interest in Burma lies not in just a few energy contracts. It is their recognition, shared with India, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan, South Korea and many other countries in the region, that Burma occupies a vital strategic position in South-east Asia, and that the attractions of Burma, quite apart from natural gas, lie as much in the immense potential of its human and natural resources and in its geo-political importance. That is why Burma was fought over so bitterly during the Second World War.
BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THAILAND 1986-89, GUILDFORD, SURREY
The folly of the UK's drug policies
Sir: Your front page (21 November) highlights the dangers of crystal meth. It also shows up the folly of our policy of destroying Third World countries and waging chemical warfare on poor farmers earning a pittance in places such as Colombia and Afghanistan.
People will abuse whatever substance they can find and if they cannot find it they will make it. By making the price of purer, more natural drugs higher, we get derivatives such as crack or brew-your-own, such as crystal meth.
The "war on drugs" policy is a joke. A trip through some city centres at night shows the problem is abuse of whatever substances people can get, be they alcohol or illegal narcotics.
JONATHAN DA SILVA
Nations must act to stop Congo conflict
Sir: Sadly the threat of renewed conflict that looms heavily over the Democratic Republic of Congo after the election result is all too familiar for the people of that troubled country ("Calls for calm in Congo after Kabila emerges as the victor", 16 November).
For decades, the lives of millions of Congolese have been blighted by brutal killings, mass rape and other terrible atrocities. The bloody war in the DRC has been among the world's most-forgotten humanitarian crises, and still it continues with 1,200 people dying every day.
While these elections were not to be Congo's panacea, the possibility of a democratically elected president carried a hope of fresh direction and stability.
Now more than ever the international community cannot afford to sit by; every effort needs to be made to prevent another catastrophe.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL UK LONDON EC2
Prayers and pragmatism
Sir: On the subject of ethical investment and Alistair McBay's question (Letters, 20 November), as Canon Hall said (Letters, 17 November), holding shares can give you a way in to offer your views to companies. In the same way, owning a shopping centre can give you a way in to talking to shoppers and staff.
The Church Commissioners, like other corporate investors, have a fiduciary duty to maximise returns from investments on behalf of beneficiaries, resulting in a diversified portfolio of equities and property.
Unlike other corporate investors, our involvement in shopping centres has resulted in, for example, a chaplain employed at the Metro Centre in Gates-head, caring for the spiritual health of the staff who work there and the people who shop there. It is not uncommon to see sermons preached in the malls.
SECRETARY TO THE CHURCH COMMISSIONERS FOR ENGLAND, LONDON SW1
Sir: As Alistair McBay surely knows, the archbishops denounce consumerism because as R H Tawney said: "The view that the attainment of material riches is the supreme object of human endeavour and the final criterion of human success is sharply opposed to the teaching ascribed to the founder of the Christian faith."
The Church Commissioners hold funds much of which are used to pay the pensions of retired clergy. These funds have to be invested. If Mr Mackay can suggest how these funds can be sensibly invested so that they remove the risk of generating remarks from humanists seeking any excuse to criticise the Church, most Anglicans would be pleased to urge that the funds be invested as he suggests.
Opera snobbery about musicals
Sir: Stewart Trotter (Letters, 11 November) complains that of the English National Opera's 61 performances between April and July next year, 22 of them are operas and 39 musicals.
Why should a certain formation of notes (B, G, B, G, A, F, G, D, F) which make up "Un bel di vedremo levarsi un fil di fumo" be regarded any more seriously than a similar group of notes which form "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables"? Why should the libretto of Madam Butterfly be part of operatic history but the libretto of Les Miserables simply be part of a West End "show"?
How can the words of Victor Hugo, T S Eliot or Charles Dickens be considered any less glorious than the librettos of Giacosa and Illica for Puccini's La Bohème and Tosca?
DR ANTHONY FIELD CBE
Sir: British Airways has rejected Nadia Eweida's request to be allowed to wear a half-inch cross openly. Does this mean her employers will be required to remove the 33ft-high crosses from the tailfins of their 747 aircraft?
DR TONY PARKER
RINGMER, EAST SUSSEX
Drop in the aid bucket
Sir: So Gordon Brown has gone to Basra and promised £100m to Iraq, when, and only when, the country is running its own affairs. It is nice to know where his priorities are when we compare this sum for dealing with an entire devastated country with that to be spent on a small scruffy part of Stratford in London so athletes can run round in circles for a couple of weeks. That will cost us all £2.3bn, or £5.8bn or £8bn, or more. I suggest that £100m is not going to go very far in Iraq.
Sir: Thanks to present light pollution, your guide to the night sky (21 November) will be the only way today's children will ever, truly, "see the stars" as I did in mid-Lincolnshire in the late 1950s.
Play's the thing
Sir: I am not as enthusiastic about the state of West End theatre as your leading article (17 November). Granted, there are new "hit" musicals, but the many long-running regulars or reworkings of standards make the listings look stale and tired. Indeed, the preponderance of musicals means few theatres have plays, and many of these struggle. New plays are the life blood of British theatre and producers need to be brave enough to bring them and their perhaps relatively unknown casts into the heart of the West End and market them aggressively.
DR ROBIN CHRISTIE
Sir: It is a disgraceful scandal that First Direct is proposing to charge customers with less than £1,500 per month going into their account a monthly fee of £10 (report, 17 November). These are precisely the customers who can't afford to pay £120 per year for the "privilege" of operating a bank account. I would encourage all caring people to close their account at First Direct forthwith to demonstrate their concern for the less-well-off.
Sir: One of the many suspects for the Ripper murders put forward over the years, and the subject of the Johnny Depp film From Hell, was the Queen's physician. Looking at John Grieve's moustachioed e-fit of the killer (article, 20 November) it would seem far more likely to be Queen's late lead singer.
Sir: So, they even plan to hang the Ripper crimes on Lord Lucan, do they?
RUGELEY, STAFFORDSHIREReuse content