The Spectator

Letters: why we need assisted dying


A doctor writes

Sir: I have seen a lot of dying in my career as a doctor. Your leading article (‘Licence to kill’, 16 March) shows astonishing naivety about the state of dying pain-free and with dignity in the UK. Outside of a hospice, where only 5 per cent die (well-supported), there is much terrible suffering. Until 2000, GPs and hospitals used opioids in many forms, from syringe drivers to Brompton’s cocktail, to ease death. However, since Harold Shipman the rules have changed and doctors outside of specialist services for the dying are terrified of prescribing the slightest hastening dose. My mother-in-law had an agonising death with terminal cancer in a care home, while a doctor tried and failed for hours to find any relief as he was unable to carry morphine at all. This situation will not change and in my view the only solution is to allow assisted dying within tight rules, as Switzerland has managed for some time.

Tim Manners, retired consultant surgeon

Sutton on the Forest, York

More care needed

Sir: The lead article in last week’s edition is spot on. Assisted dying is a hugely contentious issue and if there are such strong views on both sides, surely we should err on the side of caution.

One of the arguments in favour is the prevention of painful and undignified deaths. But there are better ways of dealing with pain than hastening the end. Improving care should be our priority. There is no need for anyone to die in pain and distress – we already have the means to prevent that. Legislating for assisted dying would, as the article says, lead to a degree of ‘mission creep’. What starts as an option becomes a suggestion, maybe progressing to an expectation. How close are we then to compulsion?

John Roberts


Hunting for knowledge

Sir: I wholeheartedly agree with Matt Ridley’s wonderful article (‘For the birds’, 16 March). I would like to point out that the active conservation of game birds, quarry and wildlife-friendly habitats is not only the preserve of landowners, but is also done by many of those actively involved in hunting of all sorts. As a now lapsed falconer, I rarely see mentioned the work done by the falconry community (i.e. those engaged in the sport of hunting with a bird of prey) to preserve the habitat of wild game birds and furred quarry; or their work in bird of prey conservation by warning of the dangers of DDT and diclofenac (which threatens the existence of vulture species across India and Africa). This community brings centuries of learning to bear on how to keep and encourage the breeding of endangered raptor species in captivity – without which many zoological foundations would simply not have gained the expertise to achieve their goals.

Those who work and live with wild animals and their environments every day are often those with the most deep-rooted passion for securing their future, as well as an honest grasp of the practical ways to make that goal possible.

Sophie Cunningham


Mother Ireland

Sir: Charles Moore writes perceptively about the outcome of the recent Irish referenda (‘Notes’, 16 March). But what class of chump would try to erase the word ‘mother’ from the constitution, especially just before Mother’s Day? Unsurprisingly, the Irish political class received an overwhelming ‘No’ in all constituencies bar the wealthy Dalkey area, from women and men who love and respect their mothers.

These politicians are so swayed by their special advisers that they believe it’s progressive to eliminate ‘gendered language’, entirely losing touch with the simple facts of life and laws of nature. Most voters, meanwhile, are grounded in common sense.

Mary Kenny

Deal, Kent

No policing some people

Sir: The Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings attributes the tidal wave of shoplifting to a lack of police numbers (Letters, 16 March). While I accept that a visible police presence is undoubtedly a deterrent, and the closure of three stations within three miles of my house in the past decade has not helped, it is also clear to me that a force more interested in raising revenue from motorists, patrolling social media rather than streets and taking its own political stance is failing to do the job.

Even if my local Morrisons were to apprehend a thief, the wait for the police to arrive would be lengthy (if they responded at all). The same if my house were burgled or my car stolen off the driveway. Shortage of numbers? Maybe just a police force concentrating its resources on the wrong targets? Similarly, it is well known that a park over the road from where I live is a drug-dealing site, and that new supplies are signalled with a firework. Yet the smell of weed everywhere lets us know that the police don’t bother about it.

Billings also cites the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ as a reason. No, rather it is greed, freedom from punishment and a lack of discipline and morals. The ‘crisis’ doesn’t stop my local McDonald’s being busy 24/7, or the sales of mobile phones and subscription TV. Some people will always want something for nothing. Society is well and truly broken and all we do is keep making excuses.

John Pritchard

Benfleet, Essex

Parris agreement

Sir: The article by Matthew Parris (‘How to claim mental illness benefits’, 16 March) is eye-opening. One particular fact jolted me: that assessors are not allowed access to claimants’ health records. Why not?

Trevor Cooper

Burpham, West Sussex