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Forced to fight a never-ending battle with illness

• Why is it, when a loved one is sick in hospital, no one bats an eyelid when we wonder aloud if their death wouldn't be a 'merciful release'?

And when we are told 'there's nothing more that can be done', we whisper to our loved one that we give them our permission to 'go if you need to', even though modern medicine can, and regularly does, keep a person alive long past the point where their life should have naturally ended?

We've all wept beside a coffin and consoled ourselves that they are better off dead and wouldn't have wanted to survive without a certain quality of life.

Yet if a person chooses to end their own life, we cannot conceive of the possibility that such a decision could be rational. Is it the fact the person made a decision about their own life and denied other people the option to interfere with the decision? The most basic expression of a person's independence is choosing their own moment of death.

Or is it that we refuse to accept that such a choice could ever be rational?

We are such a nation of hypocrites. On one hand, we go on about how only 'God' can choose the moment of death, yet we think nothing of hooking people up to all sorts of machines to prolong a life that might have ended, and justify it because this God gave us the intelligence to create life-support machines, while ignoring the fact he also gave us the wit to design a plug that can be turned off and drugs that can send someone on their way and end their suffering.

So why shouldn't a person be able to decide that they don't want to spend the rest of their life fighting a never-ending battle against a progressive illness?

Has it never occurred to people whose loved ones took the option to end their life that, instead of being selfish and going on about how it affected them, to instead be glad that the suffering of their loved one is over and be thankful for the time that you did have with each other?

I have a progressive long-term illness and, in time, my quality of life will plummet. At some point, I'll reach the stage where enough is enough.

For me, at the moment, that seems a long way off.

But I hope when the time comes, if I've achieved my ambition to be able to move home again – if there's a life to be had at home – Irish society will afford me the respect and decency to allow me to make that choice for myself.

Because, if there is a God, he or she will know exactly what process brought someone to decide to end their life, and they can't have given people free will, only to then punish a person for using it.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf, London

May Day, May Day

• After spending the last two weeks in continuous rain and no sunshine, I've come to the conclusion that May 1 is both the first and last day of summer.

Kevin Devitte

Westport, Co Mayo

Brian has done us proud

• Brian O'Driscoll's decision to sign on for another year for Ireland is a testimony to this unique Irish sporting hero.

In an age of easy cynicism, where cheap shots get cheaper every day, O'Driscoll has raised the bar for integrity and honesty.

He epitomises the ideal that anything is possible in sport; a dedication that has taken a great toll on him personally in health and domestically in his family life.

During the superficial and ultimately doomed Celtic Tiger days, the notion of "donning the green jersey" became a much-derided term.

It applied to a phoney pride that was really self-serving as opposed to doing one's country proud. O'Driscoll is the ultimate sporting ambassador and his tenure in the No 13 shirt has brought honour to Ireland.

They say that you can pay for service but you have to earn respect; no one has done more to earn it than Brian O'Driscoll.

M M Fullam

Rathfarnham, Co Dublin

Rabbitte's struggle

• Minister Pat Rabbitte appears to have lost the idea that Ireland could charge royalties on oil and gas like the Norwegian model.

"Tax is paid on profits after write-off of exploration and development costs" and probably any new fiscal terms don't even apply retrospectively.

Mr Rabbitte seems to be struggling to understand 'oranges and apples', his terms to describe Ireland's and Norway's attitudes to natural resources.

"I struggle to understand how anyone could expect Ireland to have Norwegian-style tax rates without first having Norwegian levels of commercial discoveries."

Just like Ireland now, the Norwegian government didn't know if they had oil and gas; in fact, Norway's government was told that the chances of finding coal, oil or sulphur on the continental shelf off the Norwegian coast could be discounted. But it didn't stop the responsible ministers from adopting a far-sighted attitude and refusing to adopt an Irish submissiveness.

Monica Muller

Ballina, Co Mayo

Exceptional treatment

• Some 110,000 fixed-penalty notices have been cancelled. However, there is no corruption, misconduct or favouritism, according to an internal garda report. Some of these notices are in the celebrity class of cancellation. It looks to me that, far from there being exceptional circumstances, there just seems to be a lot of exceptional people!

Maurice Fitzgerald

Shanbally, Co Cork

Keeping us in the dark

• Can passing legislation of a controversial nature without a vote be good for democracy? Regardless of the actual bill itself, I believe the principle is not a good one.

Debate can draw out difficulties that those engaged in the drafting of a bill might be too close to see, and legislation is the poorer without allowing time to hear all responses to it.

In the specific case of the abortion bill, there can be little doubt that the reason for avoiding a vote is to avoid revealing to the public which TD would vote against the bill, had they been given the chance. So there is a sense that the public are to be kept in the dark and unable to hold their elected representatives responsible. Shame on those who choose to do this.

Caitriona McClean

Lucan, Co Dublin

Farmers in crisis

• It is a disgrace that the Government has not done more to help the circumstances that Irish farmers find themselves in with the fodder crisis. We as a State are so dependent on the farmers for many different aspects of our lives, none more so than the provision of high-class milk and foodstuffs. And to see how this Government has carried out its duty to those farmers is simply a disgrace. The minister responsible must do more.

Paul Doran

Clondalkin, Dublin 22

Gravely funny

• I came across a book called 'Dead Funny' by a man called Allen Foster. It features humourous Irish epitaphs.

I include one from Belfast:

"Beneath this stone lies Katherine my wife

In death my comfort, and my plague through life

Oh liberty! but soft I must not boast

She's haunt me else, by jingo, with her ghost."

And one from Dublin:

"Here lies the remains of John Hall, grocer. The world is not worth a fig. I have good raisins for saying so."

W Harpur

Ennis, Co Clare

Irish Independent