UNLIKE Robert Aston (Your Letters, September 1), I think a letters column is an excellent place for Boltonians to hold balanced discussions on “complex legal and moral matters”.

Such discussions, about assisted dying, gay marriage, abortion, disabled rights, etc, are essentially about one thing; a challenge to power, usually that of men over vulnerable people, which is often enforced through emotional and religious blackmail, and sometimes through the threat of physical violence.

For most of us, a relatively free press is one of the few means we have of challenging such power, which is wielded by a religious and political elite, whose greatest fear is Boltonians who are capable of thinking for themselves; libertarians who dare to dissent.

In so far as assisted dying is concerned, the coterie comprising the Vatican and the United Kingdom’s 26 unelected clerics in the House of Lords, helping to decide who should have the right to live, or the right to die, hardly provides for a balanced discussion.

I agree with Professor Raymond Tallis, chairman of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying who is of the opinion that “assisted dying should be a matter for society as a whole and not just for the medical profession”.

For professionals such as Dr Dai Samuel of the BMA to compare assisted suicide to murder is irresponsible. Such a procedure, if legalised, would by definition, not constitute an offence of murder. Robert quotes only part of the Hippocratic Oath: “above all, do no harm”.

As a Catholic, he will be aware of the “sin of omission”, which, in my book, includes a deliberate refusal “to do good” by denying: the legal means — which able bodied people already possess — and the medical and technological means — which society already possesses — to end, at their request, the suffering of a person who is of sound mind.

Such a sin demonstrates a lack of compassion and empathy for our fellow humans.

Robert speaks of “deliberate killing” and quotes the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill”. The UK is an allegedly Christian country, which has legitimised, encouraged, tolerated, the death, pain and suffering of human beings around the world on an industrial scale, all with the tacit consent of the religious establishment.

Tony Nicklinson, who had locked-in syndrome, said: “It cannot be acceptable in 21st century Britain that I am denied the right to take my own life just because I am physically handicapped.”

Why should you, Robert, object to those who seek to preserve, through legitimate democratic processes, the right of people such as Tony Nicklinson, to the most basic of all human rights — the right to death itself?

Bill Kelly Darley Street Farnworth