Let's be clear about how Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which allows physician-assisted dying, actually works (editorial, May 20, and subsequent letters to the editor).
It is not a fate foisted upon random, unwanted old people. It is an option for people with a fatal disease and a life expectancy of six months or less. In the 14 years it has been available, only 596 people have ended their lives by this means.
The greatest number come not from the very old, but from those between 55 and 84, with 29 percent of the total being between 65 and 74. Eighty-one percent suffered from cancer.
While 36 percent were concerned about being a burden to their families and caregivers, this was not their primary reason for seeking a quicker death.
More important to them were losing autonomy (91 percent), losing the ability to do the things that make life enjoyable (88 percent), loss of dignity (83 percent), and losing control of bodily functions (54 percent).
If any of these were your situation and you were a mentally competent resident of Oregon older than 18, you could get a prescription for a lethal medication after making two oral and one written witnessed requests of your doctor, and after your doctor and another physician confirmed your diagnosis and prognosis, and after your doctor informed you of all the feasible alternatives, including comfort care, hospice care and pain management.
This does not sound to me like window dressing or the devaluation of anyone. It is merely an option that allows someone facing a sure death to choose the time and manner of putting an end to suffering, whether physical or psychic.
If this is not a choice you would make, then don't. But don't deny it to those of us who would seek a peaceful end for ourselves.
JANET CONN, EDINA
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Public pension funds, union pension funds and teacher retirement funds have invested, and continue to invest, a significant amount of money with private equity firms. As these firms profit and create wealth, the retirement funds are able to pass it along to their members.
Since these funds are owned by millions of hardworking citizens like you and I, you and I are direct beneficiaries of the success of private-equity firms. They are a vital part of a well-functioning, free-enterprise economy that benefits both Republican and Democrats.
I think it's exceedingly cynical, intellectually bankrupt and bad for America's economic prospects to demonize private-equity firms such as Bain Capital. It seems the current occupant of the White House is willing to hamstring our long-term economic future in order to score short term political points.
CASEY WHELAN, MAPLE GROVE
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Here we go again. The article on affluent schools staying ahead of schools in poorer school districts ("Affluent schools stay on top," May 22), was not a new story for educators.
Neither was the news on public radio that same day: To deal with the achievement gap that troubles us, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced another grant program -- $480 million is available for schools to apply for.
The well-organized, healthy schools of the country will apply on time and with statistics and theory, and will win the grants.
And the achievement gap will get worse.
There is a reason why wealthy districts have a better chance at success in every aspect of public service: They can afford to do things that poor districts can't.
Forcing competition between schools and teachers does nothing but create losers of the competition. Instead, put the money where the worst problems are.
We in Minnesota lead the country in the achievement gap because we reward the winners of the grant struggles and believe "open enrollment" and "charter" schools are the answers to education reform.
If we keep putting the money into experiments and neglect what we know is a problem, it can only get worse.
DON HILL, NORTHFIELD, MINN.
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In response to the election judge who supports voter ID (Readers Write, May 23) because it can smooth the voting process: I, too, am proud to have served in this capacity at our local precinct for the last 25 years, and believe it is more important to make voting easy and available to every eligible voter.
Casting a vote is the right of every law-abiding American citizen. Sometimes exercising these rights takes time. Is expanding government at the taxpayer expense for a faster-moving line really the answer?
There were a mere 113 convictions for voter fraud in Minnesota in 2008. Felon voting is a matter of education for parole officers to address.
Voter ID would do nothing to prevent them from voting. This amendment is a needless effort to fix something that is not broken, only to disenfranchise a group of voters who tend to vote a certain way.
EDITH PALMER, PLYMOUTH