What does and doesn't happen at life's end


I am a life member of Final Exit Network ("Assisted suicide law: Enforce, but discuss," editorial, May 20).

Since my organization supports the work of FEN, I occasionally get calls from people considering a self-deliverance. (We don't call it suicide because that suggests tragic, irrational haste. Self-deliverance is anything but that.)

They never want, nor do they get, anything more than someone who will listen to them with sympathy and understanding when no one else will. They come to their own conclusions, because it's their life and they know better than I or anyone else under what terms they want to end it.

The FEN volunteers, of course, do more. Every effort is made to ensure that a client's condition is hopeless, diagnosed correctly, unendurable (for the person!), and that the decision to self-deliver is made calmly and rationally--with no pressure or coercion whatsoever. There is no hands-on assistance at any point in the process.

During a self-deliverance, all FEN actually does is provide a comforting presence so the person does not have to die alone. Certainly, having this ultimate control should be one's final civil right.

Minnesota's statute essentially requires that anyone doing a self-deliverance must die alone to avoid legally endangering a loved one. People who make and enforce such a cruel law are the ones who should be charged, as they obviously care nothing about the person's rights or wishes. Yet, invariably, the persons charged are those who really do care, with a compassion that overrides the fear of legal persecution.


The writer is communications director for Atheists For Human Rights.

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The editorial recommends the Oregon assisted-suicide law as a controlled alternative to the rogue actions of Final Exit Network. Actually, the Oregon law controls assisted suicide like speed limits control highway drivers.

Oregon's law applies to people a doctor predicts will die within six months. Never mind that such predictions are uncertain. And contrary to the editorial, no disinterested witness is required at the actual death, so consent and self-administration are not assured.

The doctor may refer the patient for a psychological consult to determine if the person's judgment is impaired, but only 7 percent of patients have been referred. No counseling is required. Although 36 percent of patients reportedly request assisted suicide because they feel like a burden on family; no information is required about home care that might alleviate such feelings. The top five reasons people request assisted suicide are psycho-social issues, not physical pain, but there is no requirement to provide psycho-social counseling or support.

Under closer examination, the supposed safeguards under the Oregon law are just window dressing. Assisted suicide in Oregon may look better, but underneath it is just the same ugly devaluation of old, ill and disabled people, and we should all reject it.


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Growing up fast, with memorable interactions


When will it be enough? My generation's grandchildren are setting the bar ever higher ("Prom controversy: Angry parents need to get some perspective," Readers Write, May 19).

I was shocked recently when I accessed my granddaughters' Facebook page (big mistake!) and saw photos of her and her friends beautifully made up and wearing very low-cut designer gowns with obviously very high price tags. Fourteen-year-old girls looking like they were 21, all ready for their sophomore prom. How do they and their parents top that "act" for the next prom and the one after?

It's simply too much too soon for these girls and for their parents. The May 19 letter writer is correct. These Southwest High parents (and their kids) who are upset about age restrictions on prom need to get a grip, but there's no stopping it now.


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If we take a deeper look, we'll realize that these students will be guiding our country in the near future, and if we're fortunate they will use principles of fairness and reasonableness before creating or legislating law. Experience will be one of the factors that will inform them, and everyone will profit if the lesson they learned at prom is to eschew arbitrary legislation and seek to impose authority wisely.

To tell young people to "get a grip" when they take exception to that which the adults in their lives blow off is to disrespect them simply because they have not yet achieved positions of recognized power.


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State budget

To say state 'borrows' is to put it politely


Most articles about balancing the state budget use the word "borrow" to describe the money taken from the schools for this purpose. When I have borrowed money, it involved a contract between two willing parties -- containing payment amounts and dates, an interest rate, and a time certain for completion.

I have never seen evidence of that when the state budget is mentioned. Surely there must be a more descriptive term for what happens, for it is definitely not "borrowing." I did once note the modifier "forcible" regarding the borrowing from the schools. Even that is a mild term for what happens.