Letters: We would enjoy old age more if we did not fear an undignified death

Istvan Kormendi, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, was still practising as a GP in 2021 at the age of 97
Istvan Kormendi, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, was still practising as a GP in 2021 at the age of 97 - ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

SIR – Keith Herdman (Letters, December 4) says he wouldn’t want to suffer indignity at the end of his life and would prefer an assisted death at the time of his choosing.

Surveys show that the majority of people in the United Kingdom feel the same. Doctors already intervene in all life’s stages, so why can’t they use their skills to bring about a peaceful death at its end, if that is the patient’s wish? After all, Victorians believed that pain relief in childbirth was a sin until Queen Victoria requested it for her births – it then became accepted.

America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and parts of Europe already allow a medically assisted death for terminally ill people who request it. Many of us would enjoy our lives more if we didn’t fear that we may one day suffer a long, painful and undignified death. We want our loved ones to have happy memories of us, not to see us suffering.

A Wills
Ruislip, Middlesex

SIR – John O’Donnell (Letters, December 8) asks for a return to adequate pain relief to ease suffering.

Aged 97 my mother, who had dementia but was physically well and on no medication, developed shingles on her chest. She stopped eating and drinking, and clawed at her sore chest, leaving it excoriated and bleeding. As a recently retired GP, I consulted her local GP and the care-home staff, and we agreed to apply morphine patches to her back.

Within 24 hours she was no longer scratching and distressed, and her chest was healing. For the next few days she slept and woke peacefully, until she gently expired. That was not assisted dying, but it was effective pain relief to ease the inevitable.

Hilary Murray
Bala, Merionethshire

SIR – Dying is not something that needs a right – we will all die – the issue is whether a doctor can be obliged to administer a lethal injection at a patient’s request. Given that a patient’s autonomy does not override a doctor’s, I do not see that a right to death can compel medical co-operation.

Furthermore, if it is a right, it has to be universal; if it is restricted to a specific group, it is a privilege. But we know from the example of jurisdictions that have legalised voluntary euthanasia that this alleged right, initially limited in scope, rapidly becomes available to the depressed, the mentally ill and the suicidal. We should not start down that road.

John Allen
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Currently in the UK, anyone over the age of 18 with mental capacity can make a living will. This could specify that, after a given period of time – say six months – if they are unable to feed, wash or attend to their toilet needs, food but not water will be withdrawn. They are then allowed to fade away.

Michael J C Ellis
Whangamata, New Zealand

Tory turmoil

SIR – Suella Braverman (Interview, December 10) states that requests to discuss her plans to reduce illegal immigration were ignored by Rishi Sunak. Was there no opportunity to raise issues at weekly Cabinet meetings, where she could have influenced colleagues’ opinions?

There are also reports of Conservative MPs plotting another leadership election. Mrs Braverman is not known for her sensitivity, but she took her MP’s Oath of Allegiance on the Buddhist Dhammapada, which includes the exhortation not to “say anything harsh … for arrogant talk entails misery” (Chapter 10, 133).

Sandra Jones
Old Cleeve, Somerset

SIR – If the “star chamber” of Tory lawyers has the expertise to judge the Rwanda deportation plans inadequate (report, December 10), why was it not involved in drafting the plans from the first to ensure they would work ?

Vincent Hearne
Chinon, Centre-Val de Loire, France

SIR – Those against the Rwanda scheme are making much noise about its cost. Surely it is a drop in the ocean when compared with the cost of accommodating hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and in terms of the benefits, public services and investment in infrastructure necessary for such an increase in population.

If the plan is given a chance and manages to stop the boats, it is money well spent.

Tony Manning
Barton on Sea, Hampshire

BBC’s bright hope

SIR – I share Lord Tony Sewell’s optimism about the next chairman of the BBC (“Samir Shah may be the BBC’s last hope”, Comment, December 7). Appointing someone who has worked in and understands television, is non-partisan and believes that diversity is about fairness not tokenism, is like a breath of fresh air.

Mr Shah believes that the migrant story is one of opportunity, fortitude, joy and inspiration rather than victimhood and misery – much like Lord Sewell himself, whose educational charity, Generating Genius, has done so much to help disadvantaged black children achieve academic excellence.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

SIR – Pat Younge, the chairman of British Broadcasting Challenge (Letters, December 5), claims that the BBC kept its side of the 2022 bargain and cut costs, while incurring significant additional expenses through coverage of conflicts in the Ukraine and the Middle East, “neither of which would have been in any business plan”.

Why not? A global news organisation of the BBC’s stature should surely have recognised the potential for important global events to occur, and that they would require significant spending to be properly covered. Does the BBC make no contingency for unplanned events? If not, it rather contradicts the purpose of the corporation.

Further, if Mr Younge wants to keep promises, will “free” television licences for the over-75s be reinstated?

Richard Scott
Kirkbride, Cumbria

Bumps in the road

SIR – How one wishes the durability of speed bumps were replicated in the rest of the urban road system. At least they give us good practice when it comes to avoiding potholes.

Dr J P Dickinson
Leeds, West Yorkshire

The bare facts

SIR – I worked with Porton Down on the development of the S10 respirator gas mask and drafted the acceptance papers for my masters (Letters, December 7). It was stated as being essential for the effectiveness of the respirator that wearers be clean-shaven, as a facial seal cannot be achieved on a bearded person.

News that the Army is considering overturning its ban on beards (report, December 5) in order to attract recruits, risks placing our soldiers in unnecessary danger were they to suffer a surprise chemical attack.

We did some evaluation on smearing a beard with Vaseline, to see whether an airtight seal could be made with the respirator, and it could. However, it was a pretty revolting mess, particularly if you had to re-don the mask at a later time, so we rejected the idea as unworkable.

The NHS should note the same assessment applies for other oral-nasal mask users. Clean-shaven is far better at keeping out those nasty bugs.

Philip Congdon
Sherborne, Dorset

Positive thinking

SIR – Having survived a long life (almost 87 and still mobile), I try hard to remain positive for the sake of my well-being.
However, I am appalled by the awful culture of negativity that is predominant in ourselves, our country and our Western culture, and which seems often to be driven by the media.As Janet Daley (Comment, December 10) points out, “the free world is drowning in self-doubt and recrimination”.

Instead, as well as being thankful for what we have ­– particularly when compared with what those in some other parts of the world have to suffer – shouldn’t we also be looking for more of the positive things in life that make us happy? We should also try to highlight good news when it happens, without the inevitable and negative “but … ” that always seems to follow any report of it.

John C Batey

Native cunning

SIR – Only in Britain could one of our leading brain scientists, the aptly named Professor David Nutt, warn us that the maximum safe limit of alcohol is actually a single glass of wine per year – but also co-own a wine shop (Features, December 10). It makes you proud.

Dr David Slawson

Dramas show a chef is only as good as his team

Heat in the kitchen: Jeremy Allen White stars as an award-winning chef in The Bear
Heat in the kitchen: Jeremy Allen White stars as an award-winning chef in The Bear - AP

SIR – Perhaps Monica Galetti (“MasterChef presenter at boiling point…”, report, December 4) should actually watch programmes such as Boiling Point and The Bear, which she criticises for being “all about chefs throwing pans across the kitchen”. She also suggests that such programmes should concentrate on the positive, not the negative, aspects of working as a team.

If she did view them, she would see that this is exactly what both are all about. They feature fictional restaurants facing problems and showing that the only way to survive the situation is by teamwork, respect and using the “amazing ingredients chefs work with”.

Ms Galetti’s own programme, MasterChef, has become tired, formulaic and in desperate need of an overhaul. I’m not sure I’ll be watching another series of it.

Chris Bazlinton
Farnham, Essex

Practical presents keep the Christmas peace

SIR – I was also given a chainsaw for Christmas by my husband (Letters, December 2). It is small, safe and has a rechargeable battery.

I got a leaf blower for my birthday. Before readers write to complain, it is also rechargeable and so quiet that my husband often can’t find me outside.

This year, he is getting telescopic loppers (difficult to wrap), so he will not have to use a ladder to prune.

Alexandra Elletson
Huish, Wiltshire

SIR – Many years ago, my then husband gave me a huge Bavarian sauerkraut slicer for Christmas. He said it would look wonderful hung on a bare-brick wall in a barn conversion. We were living in a one-bed flat in Mayfair W1.

Audrey Lindsay
Peover Superior, Cheshire

SIR – My first Christmas present from my coffee-addict new husband was a percolator. I’d always hated coffee, as he well knew, but luckily I loved the gorgeous earrings I found in the top of it. I still have them 53 years later.

Alison Shaw

SIR – For Christmas I would so love a disabled parking permit, known as a blue badge. I am elderly, 88, still driving and fiercely independent, but I have been refused a blue badge. I thought my age would qualify me automatically, but that is not the case. I could go through a series of medical tests and might then get one, but I believe that at my age I should not be put through the imposition.

No wonder so many ancients are in homes. It’s a battle to stay independent – one that I seem to be losing.

Suzanne Jennings
Fakenham, Norfolk

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