Some of the letters the paper published were profoundly moving. | MDB files


Is Britain on the verge of joining the many countries around the world who have the compassion to make assisted dying lawful? I would like to think so and suspect that the vote on Lady Meacher’s bill, when it comes, will be close. In reality, of course, the government will decide, though it is one of those issues that should be left to the individual conscience of MPs,

Many of their votes may be swayed by the decision of the British Medical Association to remain neutral on the issue, having been strongly opposed in the past.

The countries where assisted dying is allowed are Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and, most recently, Spain. In Australia several states permit assisted dying: Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and South and West Australia.

In the United States the following states have made it legal: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington DC.
I was impressed by a poll in last week’s Sunday Times showing 89 per cent of their readers in support of assisted dying. ST readers are hardly soft lefties.

Some of the letters the paper published were profoundly moving. They pointed out that people dying in excruciating pain are treated worse than criminals or pets and denied the personal freedom to make their own choice.

Instead, people in terminal pain commit suicide, if they are strong enough, or go to Dignitas. The state is cruel to enforce this situation and remain deaf to the pleas of those who are suffering in ways it is awful to think about, such as being unable to talk, eat or breathe

I admit to having some sympathy for a woman who wrote: “Anyone who has watched a loved one face death in agony and distress, which cannot always be alleviated, or who has suffered in this way themselves, will support assisted dying. Anyone who has not does not know what they are talking about.”

Salute to a brave man

Time to salute the death of a very brave man. Sandy Carmichael, who died earlier this week at the age of 77, won 50 caps for Scotland as a prop forward, which was then (1967-78) a record. But he will always be remembered as the victim of the most vicious thuggery perpetrated on a rugby field.

Exactly 50 years ago, he was playing for the British Lions touring team against the provincial side, Canterbury, a club renowned for dirty play, His eye socket and cheekbone were fractured in five places, yet he never retaliated, believing that punching had no part in rugby, and insisted on playing until the end of the match.

The Daily Telegraph’s rugby correspondent described his wounds: “His left eye was closed and a huge blue swelling of agonised flesh hung out from the cheekbone like a grotesque plum. His right eye was slit between the puffed skin above and below it. His eyelid was gashed and straggling with blood.”

He was sent home from the tour, along with his fellow prop, Ray McLoughlin, who had broken his thumb while punching the attacker. This was a week before the first Test, in which both were expected to appear. Carmichael was chosen again by the Lions in 1974 for the all-conquering tour of South Africa, but never made the Test team because of the emergence of the mighty Fran Cotton in his position.

He refused to name his attacker, but some of his colleagues, who had also been assaulted by the fiendish Kiwi – two of them were knocked out cold without the New Zealand referee seeing anything that might be penalised – were less reticent. The villain of the piece was Alister Hopkinson, who played many times as a prop for the All Blacks, aided by a flanker, Alex (“Grizz) Wyllie.

I once met a retired New Zealand referee and asked him why, in those amateur days, they turned a blind eye so often to dirty play and were blatantly biased over many decisions. He said the answer was simple: unless they performed like that, they wouldn’t be asked again. Furthermore, they would be at risk of losing their day jobs too.

In later life Sandy Carmichael needed seven hip replacements and suffered his many illnesses without complaint. He was described on his death as “one of the bravest and fairest of men.”

He was a great supporter of women’s rugby and eventually became the national coach. He ended up marrying the woman, Alison Brand, who played for Scotland in his old position of tight-head prop.

Fingers crossed for Solskjaer

When I backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the beleaguered Manchester United manager, last week after his team’s 5-0 drubbing by Liverpool, I didn’t realise I would be in such a minority supporting him, with all the media calling for his head. When the Old Trafford board failed to sack him, it was assumed that he would be given three games to save himself.

In the first of these tests Solskjaer’s men beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 at White Hart Lane, giving the manager not only some respite but the relief of seeing the man expected to take his job, Antonio Conte, grabbed by Spurs. So the wily Norwegian not only had some relief for himself, but saw the opposing manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, sacked instead.
Then came Atlanta in mid-week in the Champions League – and again Solskjaer was saved, this time by the miraculous Ronaldo, who scored both goals (his ninth in 11 games) to grab a point for United and keep them head of their group.

Now for Manchester City tomorrow, the biggest test of all. If United lose as badly as they did against Liverpool, that may be the end for Solskjaer, but as long as the team play well and are competitive, he could still survive a narrow defeat. His popularity extends beyond the boardroom to the dressing-room, where some of the players have known and liked him for years as head of the club’s academy.

If, by some miracle, United were to beat Pep Guardiola’s team, Solsjkaer’s job would be safe – until Christmas anyway.

Masks shame in UK

In the UK for the half-term holiday last week, seeing relatives for the first time in two years, was marvellous in many ways, especially meeting new babies in the family.
But we were shocked by how few people are wearing masks on public transport. In our experience that was less than half on the London Undergound or on buses and hardly anyone at all on long train journeys. No wonder the Covid figures remain so stubbornly bad and scientists fear for the winter..