Letters: Those who are dying should have the right to avoid needless suffering

Demonstrators during a debate on assisted dying in Parliament in 2021
Demonstrators during a debate on assisted dying in Parliament in 2021 - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
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SIR – Professor John Keown’s expertise in ethics (Letters, December 22) is unimpeachable, but he is wrong to suggest that allowing dying people to choose the manner and timing of their deaths would represent the state’s “endorsement” of that choice. It would be just as accurate to suggest that the state is “endorsing” the unnecessary suffering of dying people who would presently want to make that choice.

There is a role for the state in balancing individual freedoms and protections for the vulnerable, but the current law does neither: by turning a blind eye to those who spend thousands of pounds to access an assisted death in Switzerland, the state abrogates its responsibility. Accepting the traumatic suicides of terminally ill people who would want a safe and legal choice in this country is not protection – it is a scandal. If that is what the state endorses, then it really is time to revisit the current law.

David Milne KC
London WC1

SIR – Having watched my mother slip into dementia a few years ago – and heard her beg me, during her lucid moments, to help her die – I fully agree with Dame Esther Rantzen on this matter.

My mother had told me and my siblings that she did not want to be kept alive unnecessarily when the time came. This was not an unconsidered wish. She had watched her father die of cancer, and seen him kept alive in pain long after all hope had gone. The campaigners against assisted dying prevented relief for him, for her and for countless others.

David Jackson
Gosport, Hampshire

SIR – Of course Charles Moore (Comment, December 23) is right that many have dignified deaths without assisted suicide, but his article misses the point that the small minority who would prefer to have their undignified deaths shortened are denied this right in Britain. It is high time our country joined those compassionate states which allow their citizens the peace of mind that such a choice provides.

Peter Robinson
London NW6

SIR – The Bishop of Shrewsbury is quite right to warn against distorting Christian values of mercy to push for changes in the law regarding euthanasia (report, December 23).

At the age of 50 I’m pleased to still be physically well, economically active and only occasionally irritating to my family. However, I’m filled with horror at the thought of being 80, physically unwell, economically costly and often irritating to my offspring in a world where euthanasia has become an option.

How many might be euthanised to preserve the family inheritance from social care costs, or avoid being a burden? Surely only God has the right to decide when he is ready to meet me.

Craig Heeley
Badminton, Gloucestershire

Dyson on growth

SIR – As someone who followed the kind of career path mentioned by Sir James Dyson (The Saturday Interview, December 23) – which included manufacturing in this country and living and working in the United States to help build a fast-growing, profitable company – I would suggest that there is nothing greater than being part of a successful business.

Sir James is right to highlight the appalling denigration of achievement in Britain. We should be celebrating those who create jobs and growth, providing consumers with innovative products, rewarding aspirational employees with meaningful opportunities and enhancing Britain’s international reputation. The United States makes a habit of recognising such accomplishments, and it is surely time we started doing so here.

William Sykes
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – For years Britain’s productivity has been undermined by the establishment.

Sir James Dyson highlights this problem. Today’s talented and creative workforce could deliver growth if only it were empowered to do so. I fear, however, that our present leaders and managers do not want change.

Ken Lewis
St Neots, Cambridgeshire

SIR – I have always admired Sir James, but cannot agree that the problem of inflation should be regarded as less important than growth.

I am his age and have been retired for 11 years. I have no doubt that he will have an adequate pension, but I was self-employed and aimed to be independent of the state, so made my own provision. My income has not increased significantly over that period and is now worth much less than at the time of retirement. Inflation therefore matters to me and, I suspect, many other retired people – particularly when we pay taxes that support those who receive gold-plated public-sector pensions.

Growth also has a big downside – it increases consumption, which in turn contributes to global warming.

Roger Fairclough
Redhill, Surrey

Theatre blight

SIR – I sympathise with Catherine Howie (Letters, December 23). When I go to the theatre, I expect two things: first, that the person behind me will kick my seat; and, secondly, that the person in front will be very large and fidgety, as was the case last Thursday at a performance of The King and I at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne.

The latter got so bad that my wife had to tap the person on the shoulder and ask her to keep still – which, to her credit, she did, not moving a muscle during the second half.

Michael Gates
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – I once saw Billy Bragg in concert. In the row behind me, and just level with my right ear, was the world’s biggest Billy Bragg fan who, at top of his voice, accompanied him on every song. I barely heard Mr Bragg himself.

I still wonder why anyone would pay to attend a concert and not listen.

Barry Vaughan
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

SIR – My wife’s late aunt once went with a friend to a musical in Brighton. They had booked front row seats in the centre of the stalls.

After the overture the show started. Aunty stood, tapped the conductor on the shoulder and said: “Will you sit down, please? You are blocking my view.”

Derrick G Smith
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Welby’s record

SIR – Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is expected to receive a knighthood for his “personal service” to the Crown (report, December 25).

It must be pointed out, however, that his tenure has seen a collapse in churchgoing numbers, with suggestions that the Church of England could face extinction by 2060.

There has been too little effort to reach out to parishioners, both existing and potential, in order to improve attendance. Vicars used to visit members of their flock at home and were a daily, visible presence in their parishes. Many parishes now do not have a vicar; in some this has been the case for a long time. Churches stand locked up and abandoned.

The Church authorities, meanwhile, seem more interested in engaging in politics, woke issues and international affairs, managing decline at home instead of preaching the gospels and growing membership.

Martin Gaskill 
Culcheth, Cheshire

Not so clever

SIR – James Cleverly should be ashamed of himself (“Cleverly joked about spiking his wife’s ‘drink every night’”, report, December 24).

It doesn’t matter if his alleged remarks were at a private function; they were still disgraceful.

What sort of people do we have in our Government?

Jo Stevens
Glastonbury, Somerset

The cab-rank rule

SIR – The cab-rank rule for barristers (Letters, December 23) is laughable.

Many years ago I tried to instruct a well-known and very successful silk to defend a client on a murder charge at the Old Bailey. The only question his clerk asked me was: “How high a press profile is there likely to be?”

Judith Goulden
London NW3

Thirsty work

SIR – Ed Cumming (Comment, December 23) describes how his builder requested oat milk.

This reminded me of an occasion when my mother hired a gardener to do a tidy-up. It was a rather hot summer’s day, and my mother asked him if he wanted a cold drink. He replied: “Thank you – I’d like a gin and tonic, please.”

John Polsue
London SW12

How cats and birds can live together in peace

a statue of a cat on the roof of an apartment building in Riga, Latvia
At the sharp end: a statue of a cat on the roof of an apartment building in Riga, Latvia - Fifg / Alamy

SIR – With regard to cats’ hunting habits (Letters, December 26), we don’t let ours outside without a collar. This has a bell, which warns the birds. (It also has a tag giving our name and phone number, so he can be identified if anything happens to him.) There are plenty of birds in our garden, along with squirrels. The mice in the field behind, however, appear to be hard of hearing.

Peter Jackling
Great Kingshill, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Where I live, it’s not cats that are the problem; it’s the birds of prey that are taking the small birds.

Mercia Cooper
Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire

SIR – Avian slaughter notwithstanding, several of my neighbours’ cats insist on using my garden as their lavatory. I frequently catch them on my hedgehog camera.

Neil Bunyan 

The first shall be last when it comes to stamps

SIR – On December 5, I posted a pile of Christmas cards second-class (Letters, December 23), along with two parcels to Australia and one to Buckinghamshire. I also posted a birthday card to my friend, only with a first-class stamp.

The Christmas cards and parcels all arrived within a week. However, the birthday card did not arrive until December 22 – having initially been delivered to the wrong house. Fortunately the recipient had kindly written on the envelope: “Please direct to correct address.”

Susan Westlake 
Looe, Cornwall

SIR – I think that receiving a Christmas card with a first-class stamp suggests that the sender had forgotten to send you one until they received yours. 
Roger Jackson
Stockport, Cheshire

SIR – Margaret Bentley (Letters, December 25), from Leeds, asks whether other families have rum sauce with their Christmas pudding.

This was the tradition in our family, and it is truly delicious. My father was from Yorkshire, so perhaps there is a link to that county. Whatever the origin, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Patricia Jagger

SIR – My family in Crewe, Cheshire, always had homemade rum sauce with homemade Christmas pudding during the 1950s and 1960s.

I also made it for friends on Monday here in the West Midlands. It is a quick, simple and delicious accompaniment, and I hope it is made all over the country – too good to miss.

Jenny Lupton

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