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PUBLIC FORUM\Readers offer varied views on 'right to die' decision.

Of course terminally ill people have the right to choose the time and manner of their deaths. I do not believe that it is God's intent to allow people to suffer needlessly.

What kind of a God would want this for his chosen people? God has given man his wonderful brain to reason with and to make decisions. This has resulted in great strides in science and in medical programs to help humans lead a healthy life and these same advancements in science can help end a life that is nearing an end. It would be immoral to allow someone to needlessly suffer when this can be avoided, and assisted suicide would be the humane choice.

There are two sure things in life, and they are death and taxes. Our politicians have locked us into one heck of a tax system and I think that is where their laws should stop. Death is a decision between man and his God, and everyone has the right to make his or her own decision as he or she sees fit. This should not be a political issue.

Don't prolong life with elaborate artificial means, but do have mercy and put an end to the pain and suffering that the patient has to go through, and for the agony that the family and friends have to endure.

- Conrad Hubert

North Hollywood

The question about assisted suicide has two main aspects to it - first the legal question and, second, the moral question.

The legal question is easy to answer. The federal appeals court was wrong. It invented a new "right" not specifically addressed in the Constitution. Even if you are for assisted suicide, you can recognize this decision as the making of new law, which is not the function of the courts.

The moral question is more important. When we allow people to take their own lives, we swallow the "quality of life" poison pill. Rather than defining life as something with inherent value, life becomes valuable only if it has certain qualities: For example, if you can perform certain tasks, both mental and physical, or get better if you are sick, only then is "life worthy of life."

This is a very slippery slope. If we start sliding, and I fear we already have, we will not like where we end up.

- Steven Carmichael

Moorpark

It's your life to do with what you will. It's yours - personal and individual, not theirs - to pursue or to end, without interference.

If you believe that the unalienable right to life does not include the ultimate choice, I offer a question: What is the difference between Nazis who kept Jews alive in constant torment and a society that denies a patient in unresolvable agony from seeking peace by the only means that's left, a plea for death? The Nazis denied that surcease to their victims. Would you do likewise?

- Wm. O. Felsman

Woodland Hills

The court acted correctly in holding that terminally ill people have a constitutional right to choose the time and manner of their deaths.

Is it "humane" to mercifully end the life of a Death Row criminal and not an innocent, suffering, terminally ill person?

- Jean Wheeler

Reseda

I believe that there is a life force and we are but a part of nature and subject to all nature's beauty and ugliness in life. Consequently, I believe that we have a right to die when and however we decide for ourselves.

Government, state or federal, should not get in the act of making anything in that respect mandatory. But government could help. It could help by setting up a system of qualified doctors, like retired doctors who agree to help, and only certain hospitals in each state to handle requests for assisted suicide.

When you are in true agony with nothing but pain-wracked days ahead for you, it would be nice to end life in dignity and peace.

- R. Hutton

Burbank

Assisted suicide is a threat to everyone because we are all potential victims. If the 9th Circuit Court's ruling is not quickly appealed and overturned by the Supreme Court, it will be a tragedy.

Who will ensure that patients are provided with counseling and that they are free from pressure to kill themselves? Enforcement of rights will be virtually impossible because deaths will occur swiftly and behind a curtain of privacy. Having been a patient advocate for many years, I know how difficult it is to enforce patients' rights.

- Sarah Jongepier

Lake View Terrace

In a society where we can't provide universal access to care, the federal appeals court has now affirmed everyone's constitutional right to be killed by a physician. It's the ultimate absurdity of our legal system.

Doctors are healers, not executioners. We will not assist suicides or executions. Killing isn't medical treatment. Terminally ill patients need good medical care and supportive, loving families. If some patients do not receive it, then we need to improve our end-of-life care. Killing patients is not the solution.

Withdrawing life support from patients who don't want it is not comparable to a physician actively killing a patient. Patients have the right to avoid intrusive, medical technology and die naturally.

In the Netherlands, where physician-assisted suicide has been sanctioned but not legalized, about one-third of the patients killed by physicians either didn't ask for it or were not competent to ask for it. We don't want to start down that road.

Physician-assisted suicide is medically unnecessary, unethical and unprofessional.

- H. Rex Greene M.D.

Treasurer

Los Angeles County Medical Association

Pasadena

Assisted suicide is kinder than torture and more humane. May God have mercy on the terminally ill; let us ease their pain.

- Phyllis R. Schulman

Northridge

One of the Ten Commandments is: "Do not kill." That includes yourself or others.

Killing is the ultimate sin, and if we kill ourselves we cannot repent of our sin.

- Mary E. Ballester

Arleta

The court acted correctly in its decision that terminally ill people have the right to choose the time and manner of their death.

There are two issues the courts and the public should have no say in, and that is our right to end a slow and very painful terminal illness, and our right to end an unwanted pregnancy.

These are personal and the decision should be made only by the individual and their doctor. These should not be public issues, nor up for discussion or voting.

Let us all mind our own business and "butt out."

- Dana Dreyfuss

West Hills

I'm totally in favor of states voting for assisted suicide. The reason is as follows:

I'm an 82-year-old who has lupus and emphysema and I am not in very good shape.

When my time comes, which is very near, I'd like help from my doctors to ease the end. I wouldn't begin to know how to go peacefully. I definitely need help.

Thank your for listening.

- Mary M. Gainer

Glendale

One can only wonder how much time it will take for the word "assisted" to turn into "mandatory." It's sad that the argument, seemingly about a technicality, misses the total picture.

Anyone knows that it's unwise for people in mental anguish and physical pain to render a decision of such proportions as taking one's life. Such judgments are unreliable and therefore invalid.

- Sig Grinkas

Glendale

When will judges learn that their responsibility is to uphold the law - not to mete out their own ideas of justice of to participate in social engineering, such as Rowe vs. Wade.

This country is fast moving away from a democratic government, where representatives of the electorate make the laws, to an oligarchy where laws are made or overthrown by a small group called "judges." If elected officials cannot reverse this dangerous trend, it will soon be time for another "Boston tea party" or even another "shot heard round the world."

- Kenneth Bloomfield

Saugus

Regarding "Heal, don't kill," Editorials, March 10: The federal appeals court acted correctly by overturning Washington state law against doctor-assisted suicides as long as the terminally ill patients are competent. They do have constitutional rights.

I feel it is the American way to allow each state and the people to decide whether doctor-assisted suicides on terminally ill people should be legal.

- Tia Brenneise

Chatsworth

The court definitely erred in allowing assisted suicide - a euphemism for "legalized murder."

Ideally, you would have very few extreme cases were suffering, requesting patients would be helped by loving, caring, qualified MDs. In reality, the health-care industry is a business where patients and their needs are manipulated for profit. The assisted suicide concept is a ruse for profit maximizing and population control.

- Marilyn Hayes

Los Angeles

M.D.: 'I was taught to revere life'

Physician-assisted suicide: The very idea is appalling.

As a medical student, I was taught to revere life and to do everything to preserve it.

As a practicing physician I realize that there is a time to live and a time to die.

I promise my patients relief of pain and suffering to the very last moment of life. I am there for them.

At times it's risky to relive pain and suffering. The very medicines used to give relief may kill the patient. But if complete comfort is to be achieved, doctors must take the risk and not be punished for it.

That's the way it is now. I will provide patients as much medicine as they need for their comfort. But I will not kill them. For the last 2,400 years, the Hippocratic Oath warned us not to assist suicide and I do not want that privilege now.

To prolong a futile existence is just as wrong and I won't do that, either. Contrary to popular opinion, not prolonging life in terminal illness has never been illegal. A competent physician must know when to let go.

- Melvin H. Kirschner, MPH M.D.

Van Nuys
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 16, 1996
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