Thanks to the Star Tribune and to columnist Gail Rosenblum for her series that began April 23 (“Talking about death: Tackling a once taboo topic”). The day before reading it, we had buried our 94-year-old father, Melvin, in Sauk Centre, Minn., under blue skies and with good cheer. Melvin died in total peace and on his own terms before joining his wife of 66 years and one son.
In the final three weeks of his life, Melvin saw the wedding of a granddaughter and hosted a family meeting of his surviving 11 children, at which he updated all on his health, his plans and his finances. He gave away all his stuff in an orderly fashion. He faced lab reports of cancer cells by saying “I’m old enough for cancer; let it be.”
He then entered a fabulous hospice facility (Quiet Oaks), which added at least three happy days to his life. During those three days he pranked a half-dozen nurses with a wooden tube/rubber band contraption he had made in high school. He also played his squeezebox and sang two German songs with his lone surviving brother. He talked with all his children and grandchildren and many friends.
Melvin was prepared for death, and therefore so were his children. Each of his 26 grandchildren had a role in the program. We 11 siblings are as individually quirky as any family, but in facing and celebrating our father’s death, we were as unified as Twins fans waving homer hankies in 1987.
Melvin’s comfortable death validates the value of Rosenblum’s series and serves as an example of the joy such preparedness can bring.
John Ehlert, Minneapolis
• • •
The first installment of Rosenblum’s series brought up the very important topic of end-of-life planning, and, as she so correctly pointed out, this is a subject that a lot of us avoid talking about. There are many options a person has to maintain some control over how their dying process plays out. One of the options that should be available for a terminally ill person is medical aid in dying. This year a bill was introduced called the End of Life Options Act that would allow a terminally ill person, after two doctors concur, to self-administer a lethal medication when suffering becomes unbearable. There are several safeguards to prevent any abuse of medical aid in dying, and in fact six other states already allow this practice. For more than 20 years, Oregon has had its Death With Dignity statute, and not one case of abuse has been reported. Having this option at the end of life can be incredibly comforting knowing a person does not have to die suffering. I would hope that medical aid in dying becomes another of the options available for one’s end of life planning here in Minnesota.
David Sturgeon, Tonka Bay
Editor’s note: The second two columns in Gail Rosenblum’s series about how Minnesotans are embracing the end-of-life conversation will appear on Sunday and May 7, respectively. Rosenblum’s columns can be found in the Variety section.
MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT
The mayor may be attempting to operate beyond her control
I read with interest the comments of police expert Ronal Serpas regarding the current rift at Minneapolis City Hall between Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau (front page, April 28). His reference to the City Charter was of particular interest, though I doubt he bothered to read it himself.
Many a mayor in this town has learned the hard way that his or her span of control is limited to the hiring of department heads. Also, that venturing into the internal affairs of the Police Department rarely ends well. Chief Harteau has been with the city for more than 30 years and has seen this scenario before.
My sense is that if the chief proceeds with the John Delmonico inspector appointment — which she may — then the mayor will discover that the only way to undo the appointment is to hire a new chief who will do it for her.
John N. Rouner, St. Louis Park
A shortened enrollment period should not be on the table
Based on my four years of experience as a MNsure-certified navigator in Duluth, and as coordinator of a team of other local navigators, I am concerned that the potentially shortened open-enrollment period will solve no problems and only create more (“MNsure weighs shorter sign-up,” April 23). In my experience, people do not “wait to purchase coverage until the need for care arises,” as was suggested by a Blue Cross representative in a recent article about the federal rule. People want to comply with health care laws. A change to the open-enrollment period will be difficult to message successfully; by the time people understand the window for enrollment has changed, it will be too late.
Furthermore, a shortened period may strain navigator resources and cause a shortage of available help when people need it. Already during previous 12-week open-enrollment periods, navigators are fully booked with appointments. Confusion and strained enrollment assistance resources seem likely to result in an increase to the number of people without insurance. That means fewer premiums will be supporting the individual market and it will become less stable, not more. A shortened period is not good for consumers or the individual market. MNsure would be wise to exercise its flexibility and maintain a 12-week open-enrollment window.
Megan Halena, Duluth
The writer is program director at Generations Health Care Initiatives.
TRUMP TAX PLAN
An April 28 letter writer wants us to take a deep breath and think about the Trump tax proposal, believing that lower taxes for the rich would result in more government revenue and increased economic activity. I’ve heard this approach described by the British as the horse-and-sparrow theory of economics: If you give a horse enough oats in one end, enough will come out the other end to feed the sparrow. Take a deep breath and think about that.
Phil Carlson, St. Paul
The, uh, legislative branch
Whatever happened to the balance of powers? In the 1970s, former Sen. Mike Monroney, D-Okla., asked, “Is Congress still capable of initiating and enacting its own legislative program?” And journalist David Brinkley saw Congress moving toward a “state of honored irrelevance.” It would seem that this trend has only gotten worse. C’mon, Congress, please take up the initiative we elected you for under the Constitution!
Judy Gelina, Bloomington
HEALTH CARE POLICY
What the people want
House Republicans seem to lack a vision of what I believe the public wants for health care: (1) Insurance we can afford. (2) Deductibles we can afford. (3) Prescriptions we can afford. (4) Coverage for our actual health care needs. Nothing Congress is talking about will be doing any of these things. So they will pass something that will cost 20 million people their coverage. Will my premiums go down? Will my deductibles go town? Will I still have coverage for the essential health care needs that I might encounter? Can I buy affordable insurance with a pre-existing condition? The answer to all of these questions is no. After things go from bad to worse, our only recourse is the next election cycle. The solutions are hard. The problem is simple. Americans want to be able to afford to see a doctor and stay alive.
Michael Mummah, Brooklyn Park