27 SEPTEMBER 1969, Page 28


From D. A. N. Jones, A. E. Lewis, Mrs I. M. Wight, C. W. Pearson, Frank MacDermot, Aryeh H. Samuel, K. W. Nicholls, G.ltyd Lewis, Dr Billy J. Dudley, William Saunders, Tibor Szamuely.

Layman's dilemma

Sir: Simon Raven's novels are decently stoical. His essay in praise of euthanasia (20 September) is not. 'Euthanasia' is a Greekish word nowadays used to mean `killing off the weak when they are troublesome'. Charac- ters in Raven's own novels (Llewellyn or Constable, say) could tell him what is wrong with his sentence: `human vegetables are obscene and the "life" in them should not be preserved'. There is no such thing as a human vegetable: this is a metaphor for people in very great trouble. 'Obscene' is a Latinish word nowadays used to mean `something we don't want to see, don't want to know about'.

It is not true that Britain is turning itself into 'a spinster daughter, neglecting its proper business and pleasure in order to take care of Mother . . . i.e. of the mass of human detritus which ought to be dead and buried'. In fact, the geriatric wards of this country are jam-packed with the beds of mothers, because their sons and daughters cannot afford the money and living-space to look after them properly. The same applies to many people of 'subnormal' intelligence who might, with money, be living among us instead of being locked up and neglected in institutions.

Simon Raven worries about 'the taxpayer' spending millions on the National Health Service. He should rather worry about that proportion of the nation's resources which is acquired and invested by insurance com- panies, like the grandly named British United Provident Association, servicing the health of the wealthy.