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Allow us the option of a humane, painless death

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA</span>
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Jane Campbell says disabled people need more help to live, not to die (22 October). As a disabled person myself, with a condition which will continue to deteriorate but which won’t kill me, I say we need both.

We do need help to live and we may need help to die, if that’s what we want. People talk about dying with dignity; help with living doesn’t always include dignity. Having your arse wiped by someone else, whoever they are, isn’t very dignified and that is one of the aspects of my own future I don’t look forward to. What we need in help with living and with dying is humanity, kindness and, certainly for me, humour.
Kathryn Hobson
Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham

• While delighted to see the Guardian give more space to voices from disabled people, I fear you have reinforced the false assumption that disabled people are all opposed to assisted dying for terminally ill people.

Why did you not balance Jane Campbell’s article with one from a disabled campaigner in favour of Baroness Meacher’s assisted dying bill? There are many of us about. Disabled people, like everyone else, are divided on the issue of assisted dying. For this reason, Disability Rights UK recently changed its position from opposition to neutrality. I believe the safeguards in Meacher’s bill, modelled on the law in the US state of Oregon, mean that it is not a danger to disabled people, which is why I support it, as do many others with disabilities.
Prof Tom Shakespeare
London

• In the excellent debate in the House of Lords last Friday, with passionate speeches on both sides, it was argued by some that we have a “right to die”. We do not. We have a right to life. We are free to end our life, but that is no more a right than it is to self-harm or drink too much.

Whether we think life is a punishment for having been born or a precious gift, we can choose to reject it, but a liberty should not be confused with a right. It detracts from the crucial issue of human rights which are being denied in so many parts of the world. There were also many speeches based on the primacy of human autonomy. But this is not a value which should always override other values. It has to take into account other people and our obligations to one another and society as a whole.
Richard Harries
House of Lords

• At my 80th birthday, I discussed my “future” with my close family. In the end they agreed that I should have access to assisted dying if I was no longer able to look after myself. For me, being alive means being able to cook and eat, wash and dress myself, go to the toilet myself, work in my garden, and sit and read. They agreed. So will my GP be able to help me if I need assistance to die?
Marika Sherwood
Oare, Kent

• My brother and I, like many supporters of Dignity in Dying, had to watch our loved one die in distress and agony without an option of a humane, painless death. Many are forced to watch, without any power to help in their relative’s suffering, as medical professionals who are either against assisted death, or unwilling to overlook the current law, do their best to try to control pain.

But not all pain can be controlled successfully. It is hard to believe that, in this day and age, this is allowed to happen in the UK.
Lesley Cullan
Fochabers, Moray

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