Readers Speak Out On Assisted Suicide

March 07, 2009

Animals are "put down" to humanely end their pain and suffering. Why do we show more compassion for animals than we do to our family members, friends and citizens of this state and nation who are suffering unendurable pain and who feel they can no longer go on ("2 accused of roles in suicide network," Feb. 27)?

On what rational basis can the right to die with dignity be denied to those who are in great pain, who are debilitated or facing a devastating end-of-life illness?

When will we be civilized enough as a nation to pass legislation in support of the individual's right to die when he or she has suffered enough and cannot endure anymore pain?

Such individuals should be allowed to die legally, with the assistance of their physicians or medical team.

Shirley Dempsey Marilyn Shapiro, Baltimore

As someone who believes in personal rights, and the widow of a man who had ALS, I strongly favor of end-of-life choices.

I support legislation to this end, and applaud Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert and Nicholas Alec Sheridan for their compassionate legal involvement in this area. Molly Kinnaird, Glen Arm

With the arrest of Dr. Lawrence D. Egbert and Nicholas Alec Sheridan last week, the question of assisted suicide arises once again.

There are those who fear death, but there are also those who welcome it. It is not uncommon to fear living too long and with a deteriorating quality of life facing pain, senility, the dragged-out deathbed of the modern hospital and the cumulative debilities and losses of old age and illness.

In his autobiography, My Last Sigh, the Spanish film director Luis Bunuel described what can befall us: "What more horrible death is one that's kept at bay by the miracles of modern medicine, a death that never ends? ... Respect for human life becomes absurd when it leads to unlimited suffering, not only for the one who is dying but for those we leave behind."

He wrote those words in 1982, and all that has changed since is that there are now harsher punishments for compassionate doctors who help people die.

Luz Damron, Baltimore

Intolerable pain or suffering is not my lot just now, but I am 84 years old and I think about what might happen if I do come to the point where living is no longer bearable. I hope that if that happens, I will live in a state where physician-assisted suicide is legal and accessible.

If not, I hope that a humanitarian organization such as the Final Exit Network and a compassionate person such as those recently arrested in Baltimore are available to me for counsel.

The general rationale for denying the alleviation of continued intolerable pain is fundamentally religious: the idea that we must suffer redemptive suffering for original sin and that God should determine when one dies.

Let those who believe in that endure the suffering if they wish. In this country, however, they should not have the legal privilege to deny me my final rights.

V. R. Carlson, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Final Exit Network.

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