Aid in DyingTwenty years ago I watched my wife die a slow...


March 07, 1995

Aid in Dying

Twenty years ago I watched my wife die a slow and very painful death from abdominal cancer. Mercifully, death cut her pain short, probably by several weeks, when a compassionate doctor gave her an appropriate prescription and told her how to use the medication prescribed. His action took courage as well as compassion. He knew it was against the law.

A new law entitled Physician Aid in Dying (H.B. 933) has now been proposed in the Maryland House of Delegates by Del. Dana Dembrow, and it is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday. It offers to some suffering patients a merciful release from weeks or months of needless pain.

It is a very moderate law, loaded with safeguards. For instance, the disease must be both painful and fatal, the patient must ask for it repeatedly, and a second physician must be consulted. No physician is required to do anything against his or her religious, moral or professional principles. Helping the patient in this way is simply permitted, not required. The bill adds to freedom of choice for both physicians and patients.

Recent opinion polls, both in Maryland and nationwide, have consistently shown that at least two-thirds of those with opinions favor such a limited bill. For instance, a 1993 nationwide Harris poll asked ''Do you think that the law should allow doctors to comply with the wishes of a dying patient in severe distress who asks to have his or her life ended, or not?'' Seventy-three percent answered "yes" and 24 percent answered "no."

Opinions on it can be sent to Del. Ronald A. Guns, chair of the Environmental Committee of the House of Delegates (Annapolis 21401). I urge those who favor it to do so.

Ralph White



So retired Gen. Michael P.C. Carns, President Clinton's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, is an innovator (news article, Feb. 9)?

His plan, now implemented, sells F-16 fighter planes to other countries, then transfers the money back to the Air Force. The goal is to pay for newer F-16s Congress wouldn't allocate funds for.

The buyers are countries such as Morocco and Tunisia. As the Third World arms itself, the United States and U.S.-based companies continue as leaders in the world arms market.

The winner is the Lockheed Corp. As prime contractor on the F-16, they get to upgrade the older models before shipping them overseas, then receive contracts to build the new planes.

My guess is Carns won't have trouble with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the way other Clinton nominees have, and will. Lockheed employs thousands on Gingrich's turf in Georgia. It donated $5,000 to his 1994 campaign, and $10,000 to help fund his lecture series "Renewing American Civilization."

Carns' innovation makes the world a more dangerous place. If his nomination wins approval, somebody better keep an eye on him.

Hugh T. Skelton


Harsh Reality

Theories, theories, theories!

Thomas K. Dilworth's letter (Feb. 19) and others like him are full of theories about how raising the minimum wage will result in loss of jobs.

I say, let Mr. Dilworth and others who think like him try to support their family on the current minimum wage.

If he works a 40 hour week he will make, before taxes, less than $9,000 a year. But we'll let him work as many hours as he wants, he'll still find it almost impossible to support a family.

In fact, he may even discover the reality (rather than theory) of living on minimum wage sometimes means living on the streets or in a shelter.

Amy Donohue


Gingrich's Choir

According to the article by former state Sen. Mary Boergers (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 1), she is still in a state of denial over the results of the last congressional election.

The Republicans won. The Democrats lost. Get over it, Ms. Boergers!

The voters of eastern Baltimore County did not ignore the party affiliation of newly-elected Rep. Bob Ehrlich. They embraced his affiliation with the Republican Party.

The voters knew that if Mr. Ehrlich won, Newt Gingrich would get his vote for speaker of the House. Mr. Gingrich campaigned in the district for Bob Ehrlich. Bob Ehrlich should be proud to sing in Mr. Gingrich's revolutionary choir.

The voters pulled the Republican levers for the Contract with America and more freedom from government.

The political parties have not been weakened because voters have abandoned their "blind party loyalties," as Ms. Boergers contends. The Republicans won because they have learned to compete in the arena of ideas.

The ideas espoused by the Democrats were rejected by the voters. The arena of ideas is indeed a partisan place. This is as it should be.

There is a reason that two political parties exist. The two parties have fundamental differences over the role of government in people's lives.

The Democrats believe that what makes America great is government programs. The Republicans believe that the freedom of ordinary people to do extraordinary things is what has made America great.

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