Dignity and the end of life


Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s very moving article (Opinion & Analysis, September 29th) on assisted dying brought back to me a memory of my own mother. In her eighties and in the early stages of dementia, she said to me quite suddenly one day, “You know, when I was young the old people used to have a prayer which I never understood. It was ‘Dear Lord, leave me my dignity.’ I understand it now.”

I think it says it all. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.

A chara, – Let’s talk about assisted living, not assisted dying, writes Desmond O’Neill (Opinion & Analysis, September 28th). I second that.

Not just assisted living, but living with dignity, a dignity that belongs to every human being, regardless of condition. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says it in clear language.

Personal autonomy is good, but each one of us depends on the support of others, as Covid-19 underlines. Our control over our lives is never total. A new-born child needing assistance for all needs has the same dignity as an Olympic athlete, as also does a Covid-19 patient in an induced coma and a person in the final days and minutes of life. Our vulnerability and interdependence is part of the glory of being human. In this pandemic we have seen, at enormous cost, what we are prepared to do.

In certain circumstances we may feel we lack dignity, especially when our autonomy is threatened. Then is the time when it is important to realise our inalienable dignity. This is true in our weakest moments, and when we experience disability and serious illness, every moment. The way to die with dignity is to live with that dignity right up to our last breath. We can assure each person of their dignity always and without reservation.

Actively and deliberately to put an end to that life, whether by capital punishment or by “assisted suicide”, is the abandonment of dignity. It is failure. We want a Living with Dignity Bill, not a Dying with Dignity Bill. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.