In his piece, Ross Douthat dangerously connects the evolving, increasingly less stringent Canadian euthanasia law to historically strict U.S. medical-aid-in-dying laws, which is misleading to the public and to legislators ("Suicide vs. civilization in Canada," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 6).
Each U.S. jurisdiction that has authorized medical aid in dying has foundational safeguards that have remained effective. This medical practice is only available to mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live. These adults must also be able to self-ingest the medication. None of the 10 states, including Oregon, where its Death with Dignity Act has been in use for decades, has degenerated into a dystopia. In fact, states where medical aid-in-dying laws are legal have some of the best rates of hospice usage, including Oregon, which leads the nation.
Choosing the right care at the end of life should remain a personal decision that reflects an individual's values and respects their autonomy. Criminalizing the choice to die peacefully or requiring a terminally ill person to suffer the ravages of their disease is cruel and barbaric.
Polling shows us that most American voters across the geographic, ideological and religious spectrums support medical aid in dying as an available option. The United States laws around this medical practice are designed to empower dying Americans and respect all spiritual beliefs at the end of life.
Rebecca Thoman, Minneapolis
The writer is director, Doctors for Dignity, an initiative of Compassion & Choices.
Douthat's hair is on fire over medical aid in dying. Aside from his apparent distaste for it, he presents no actual reason a mentally competent adult should not have the right to end her own life, let alone a person who is living with intractable suffering. Perhaps he wouldn't mind so much if the person shot herself or jumped off a bridge, but that a physician might provide the means to a peaceful death strikes him as "barbaric."
I could not find the Maria Cheng article Douthat cites as his source for his column, but I did look at Health Canada's third Federal Annual Report on Medically Assisted Dying and various articles on current Canadian law and the upcoming changes. These include allowing medical assistance in dying for patients suffering from chronic mental illness. Additional safeguards for these include a 90-day waiting and assessment period. While some articles cited vague misgivings, none could report any actual abuse of the law.
Liberal end-of-life options, from palliative care — which 80% of the Canadians receiving medical assistance in dying also received — to refusing further treatment to doctor-prescribed lethal medication, are not the end of civilization. Rather, they are made possible by our growing respect for individual human autonomy, our rejection of the belief that suffering is somehow good for your soul, and our recognition that even with the marvels of modern medicine, not all suffering can be relieved. This is not a slippery slope; it is progress.
Janet Conn, Edina
Getting jabbed, and jabbed again
Reading about the COVID vaccination debate in the military, I chuckle as I'm recalling my Navy boot camp days when we went in for our mandatory inoculations against all the world's diseases. We received seven in all in that round, and all in one session, as we marched between two phalanxes of corpsmen and their injection guns. I wonder at the response I'd have received in boot camp had I whined, stamped my foot and refused to take my medicine. This kerfuffle was pure political grandstanding on Rep. Kevin McCarthy's part, stamping his foot and saying "no" as he pushes toward election as speaker.
In public school, we require our children to get several immunizations for the good of the cause: to protect all the other children. Except for religious or medical exemptions, I see no reason all soldiers should not be treated the same way. Now, be good and take your medicine.
Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park
Surplus swells, as does our to-do list
Hmm. There's a $17.6 billion tax surplus ("State's surplus swells to $17.6 billion," front page, Dec. 7).
The purpose of taxes is to pay for societal needs. Perhaps needs like highways, public transportation and fixing old bridges. Check, we need those. Rural internet access. Yes, we need that. Public education? Test results and literacy reported to be falling. If kids are not raised right, they don't turn out right. Check, we need that. Health care systems (not insurers, apparently) are strapped for cash to pay for their infrastructure, a living wage to employees, etc. Check. We need that. Housing and food security for an increasing part of our population (has anyone noticed there seems to be a homelessness problem out there?). Need that. Assisted living problems for the vulnerable elderly. Check. Lots of problems there. Our supply of clean water, a basic necessity of life is being threatened by fertilizers and pesticides and industrial runoff. Big big problem there.
Why are we talking about tax rebates when there are all these problems to fix and many more? Do we not have the political will to face up to our current realities?
Tim Emory, St. Paul
Dear Gov. Tim Walz, please prove to the Republicans that it wasn't an election-year stunt and send me my rebate check ASAP. Thank you.
Let me try to enlighten the other Democrat leaders who reportedly aren't sold on the idea. Everyone I know agrees there is no possible program or service you can create that helps me more than just letting me spend my money directly on the crushing bills that are rapidly ballooning due to inflation. We deserve to have a crack at spending at least some of our own overcollected tax money on our own expenses and problems, not just watch it all go to vague programs aimed alleviating other people's issues. For those of you who can't understand that feeling, perhaps it's time to think about forming your own breakaway Ivory Tower Party.
Pat Flynn, St. Paul
Thank you for the story reminding readers that the state budget surplus projections do not include inflation. I sincerely hope that the politicians that emphasized high inflation during political campaigns to win votes are ready to support its inclusion in future budget projections. We can't complain about a problem during the election and then ignore it afterward.
Matt Flory, St. Louis Park
Remember those with less
As I made my way home from the Ordway last week, I was acutely aware of the change in the weather. Rather than wait 30 minutes for the express bus, I opted for a warmer, roundabout way. At the 46th Street light rail station, a young woman in her 20s, nose all red, crouched in the corner of an alcove. She hadn't bothered to get up to turn the heat back on. I asked her where she would spend the night. A tent on Lake Street, she told me.
As I waited for the No. 2 bus, a Native American man, moving as if in distress but still quite articulate, told me he was heading to north Minneapolis, where a friend had a wood stove. As a diabetic, he was eating ice cream sandwiches to raise his blood-sugar. "I have to get these into me," he said.
The morning I write this, it is 5 degrees above zero. As the darkest months of the year unfold, remember those who are colder, and perhaps darker as well. These individuals ride our transit system, one of the last links in the social chain. That system deserves our support.
David Thomas, Minneapolis