Old age isn't good grounds to allow suicide I take...

LETTERS

September 10, 2000

Old age isn't good grounds to allow suicide

I take issue with Assistant State's Attorney Michael O. Bergeson's statement that "helping a healthy 15-year-old ... commit suicide is far more serious" than helping a terminally ill patient kill himself ("Boy, 16, rejects guilt in suicide," Aug. 31).

This kind of idea seems to be prevalent today. But how can we place more value on one person's life than another?

Where have we gotten the idea that just because people are terminally ill, they should be allowed to kill themselves?

Why do we think a 15-year-old girl's life is more valuable than a person whose life will be over soon? Just because she's young?

The general public has grown too comfortable with allowing people with law degrees (or medical degrees) tell us what is right or wrong.

Killing an innocent person is always wrong, whether that person does the deed himself, or it is done by others -- with or without the victim's consent.

We must see that people have value no matter what their age or health.

If we don't, pretty soon our government will be deciding which people live and which will die. Indeed this has already begun here in the United States, with the legalization of abortion and assisted suicide.

I hear people say that assisted suicide is the compassionate thing to do for the terminally ill and others.

No: Euthanasia is what we do to animals.

May I suggest that a much preferable way to deal with the terminally ill is to control pain and suffering through various means and allow the dying person the opportunity to pass on more of his or her ideas, and life experiences in his or her last days to friends, family and others.

My own experience as a nurse, and with the deaths of my grandparents, shows me that the only way to handle death is for the living to share the experience with the dying person, as it is a natural part of our life experience.

We must be careful not to uphold youth while despising old age. Both have special value.

Joni Hartman

Ellicott City

A voucher system would better all schools

The headline "Judge says state funds can go to religious school" (Aug. 24) must have dismayed opponents of school vouchers.

The case did not involve school vouchers. But it did affect a related issue, direct public subsidies for religious colleges.

The big fear of school voucher opponents is for public money to go to religious education.

But even if this happens, their fear is wasted worry.

The power of American culture, its history, its diversity, its competition, its freedom and its openness would defeat any tendency to religious domination or extremism under a voucher system.

The diversity of religious groups and the competition among them -- and with non-religious schools -- would keep religious zeal in check.

Few religious schools would succeed without an effective academic program.

Under the voucher system, academic programs, religious and non-religious, would vie with each other for good results and a reputation for competent graduates. The rising tide would lift all ships.

Today, with no voucher system, the large number of ineffective and monopolisitic public schools depresses and paralyzes the entire education endeavor.

A voucher system would unleash a vast entrepreneurial capacity and facilitate the founding of a large number of new private schools, to replace failed public schools.

The religious and non-religious school landscape under the voucher system would be little different from the current situation.

But what would be different as we tap our real human potential is an astounding and widespread increase in the competence and confidence of our people and a concomitant betterment in civility, morality, individual responsibility and tranquility.

Sam Calaby

Woodstock

More money alone won't improve schools

The big guns are taking aim. The latest guru on Maryland education, Kalman Hettleman, boasts three titles. Unfortunately, he is better at blaming others than fixing the problem ("Schools panel a failure," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 25).

He throws a few numbers around and comes up with zilch. He claims that Maryland "ranked about 40th among the states with regard to funding adequacy."

Mr. Hettleman states that "adequacy" is defined as "the resources that enable all students to meet the state's high academic standards." One generality used to define another -- how helpful.

He also notes that "standards have soared, but student achievement has lagged."

Of course, according to Mr. Hettleman, the answer is money. Why is it always someone else's fault instead of those who are supposed to be learning?

Are parents or students ever the culprit?

On the flip side of the page, The Sun castigated the Baltimore Teachers Union for fighting change, as if that was the stumbling block ("Nattering nabobs stifle school reforms," editorial, Aug. 25).

God knows teachers are not angels, but at least they have been through the wars. They shouldn't be the heavies. Frequently, their hands have been tied while "educators" have spewed forth endless "remedies."

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