Who has the right to end a life?The March 8 column by...

Letters

March 21, 1996

Who has the right to end a life?

The March 8 column by Ellen Goodman, "Sentenced to life," provoked deep thought and soul searching. I cannot imagine anyone being able to answer these life-and-death questions with utter conviction. Ms. Goodman is right on every point and she leaves all the questions unanswered.

They, in truth, have no answer since the perception of life and its relevance to living changes as we plod on to our ends.

To say, while in a healthy state, that we do not want to live as burdens on family or society is a magnanimous gesture, but empty of real meaning. Who is to say what constitutes a "burden?" Who has the right or the ability to make these judgment calls? A burden in one family would become a labor of love in another.

There are issues other than Alzheimer's disease that are equally terrifying. An aging parent must face the prospect of his or her totally dependent adult child being left alone in a world where dollars are the guiding light.

Further examples are elderly spouses who feel no longer able to care for each other and the diseases that rob the body and mind gradually until only a shell remains. Financial ruin for the family and emotional collapse for the care-givers in the family is too often the result. Do we have the right to end life just as we demand the right to create life?

Don't be fooled by the protestations of those who rail that life is so precious that it can never be relinquished voluntarily.

People voluntarily risk life every day those who go into battle, those who are paid to protect their communities, those who undergo surgery, and the list goes on. Is this really any different from making a choice involving a probable health situation?

In the end, this discussion could go on forever. There are no right answers, just as there are no wrong answers only more questions. Our individual responses depend on our individual circumstances and experiences. We really are caught in the middle.

In a less free society, a government or panel would make those choices. In a more free society free of religious or social convention life and death decisions might not pose such a dilemma.

Joan F. Hubbard

Baltimore

Non-profits can provide many services

It is interesting that Baltimore County has decided to phase out its adult day care program. The decision is a glimmer of hope that government, at least at the local level, has begun to come to its senses about the role it can play in society as a fiscally responsible partner with its citizens.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger is to be commended for recognizing that there is a very real cost to providing these services, and that ultimately that excess cost, commonly referred to as a loss, is borne by the taxpayers in his jurisdiction. We all know that government cannot continue to operate at a loss indefinitely. It is refreshing to see that Baltimore County has taken this "not for loss" approach to conducting its affairs.

This is not to say that the community does not desperately need these senior services. It is to say that it is not government's responsibility to provide them. Churches, civic groups and private citizens are all very capable of providing these services in a "not for profit" environment where the objective is to break even.

The subtle difference between a "not for profit" and a governmental philosophy of "not for loss" is that only the affected consumer or user is responsible in some way for covering the cost. The "not for profit" organization in the private sector can and does recognize the need (as opposed to a demand in the ''for profit'' sector) for social or humanitarian services. They contribute to the government's tax revenues by fueling job growth. Pricing to the consumer is more palatable since there is no profit motive.

Government must recognize the not-for-profit organizations as a viable alternative to the high cost of a social agenda that the vast majority of Americans has begun to question. This is the time for churches, civic organizations and private citizens to step up and fill the gap in a way that no government agency can.

Darrell Duggins

Towson

Beware, downtown is user-unfriendly

The Sun and other local media have been promoting the city.

We read about the Power Plant, marine biology center, Convention Center improvements, new security cameras and the football stadium. And we listen to singing business leaders on TV inviting us to come back to the city.

The marketing worked. A few weeks ago, a friend and I decided to go to Harbor Park instead of Towson to see a movie and see what the city had to offer.

It was Wednesday night and the movie started at 10: 05 p.m. We arrived at 9: 55 at Monument and Pratt Streets, leading to the empty and depressing Brokerage.

Because there was not a single car on the street, we got the spot closest to the theater. And as I dashed to catch the previews and popcorn my friend reminded me to check the meter.

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