Should All States Have Aid in Dying Laws?

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Lynda Bluestein of Bridgeport, Conn., reached a settlement with Vermont to become the first nonresident with access to its medical aid in dying law.Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Vermont Reviews Access to Its Aid in Dying Law” (news article, April 2):

After reading about Lynda Bluestein’s plan to leave her home in Connecticut to take advantage of Vermont’s aid in dying law if her chemotherapy stops working, I am left with a bittersweet feeling.

I’m hopeful for her as she continues to pursue effective treatment, and I’m happy Vermont will now provide her an option for medical aid in dying. The story also leaves me concerned about my future, here in New York.

I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer the day after Thanksgiving last year — shortly after buying a new home and starting a new career. I have been undergoing a difficult and aggressive treatment. My health care team is optimistic and I am hopeful.

One thing I know for certain is that I do not want the trauma of suffering needlessly at the end of life. If my prognosis changes, I should not be forced to leave my home and family to seek the compassionate option of medical aid in dying in another state. New York should join 10 other states and pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act.

Cassandra Johnston
Clifton Park, N.Y.
The writer is a volunteer advocate with Compassion & Choices.

To the Editor:

My husband and I recently made the decision to euthanize our beloved 15-year-old dog. He was clearly dying. He refused food ultimately. He was beginning to suffer.

The euthanasia was as seamless as could be. He was held and stroked by my husband and me. The doctor was skilled and kind. The technician kissed my dog’s head when his heart stopped. Everything was peaceful. It was dignified. Our amazingly loving and loyal dog deserved that.

Why we do not universally offer this to humans makes no sense. I know how much suffering, mental and physical, that I want to endure. My husband and family would be deeply aggrieved to watch me struggle or be in pain at the end of my life.

Everyone should be able to have the experience that our dog had. It broke our hearts, yes. But it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Kathryn Janus

To the Editor:

The article on Vermont’s “aid in dying law” focuses largely on the fairness or unfairness of the law’s residency requirement. Much less space is devoted to the underlying question of whether physician-assisted suicide — the term preferred by the American College of Physicians and other major medical organizations — represents ethical medical practice.

Jennifer Popik, the director of the National Right to Life Committee’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, rightly notes that so-called medical aid in dying “is a medical professional abandoning their patient and giving them the tools to end their life.”

It is also important to note that the vast majority of requests for physician-assisted suicide do not stem from intractable or unbearable suffering. Rather, most such requests reflect fears of losing autonomy, inability to engage in enjoyable activities and loss of dignity. These understandable concerns merit supportive counseling, not lethal medication.

As the ethicist Dr. Leon Kass once put it, “We must care for the dying, not make them dead.”

Ronald W. Pies
Lexington, Mass.
The writer is a psychiatrist and medical ethicist.

To the Editor:

At almost 97, my father, a world-renowned endocrinologist, was tethered to a catheter, reliant on a walker and unable to perform daily tasks on his own. He said his quality of life was zero. He wanted to die, but in his own home, with dignity.

However, his vital signs were strong, so several weeks ago he stopped eating and drinking; 10 days later he took his last breath. If medical aid in dying were legal in South Carolina, my siblings and I would have been able to gather around our father’s bed, share memories with him, and after he self-administered the medication, hold his hands while he died peacefully.

Instead, we had to watch him slip painfully into unconsciousness as he starved himself to death. Only at the end, with assistance from hospice, were we able to provide him with comfort medication.

Medical aid in dying is health care. We owe it to those we love to give them agency in death.

Carolyn Field Guth
New Milford, Conn.

Be Funny, Live Long

Al Jaffee at work in 2008. In 2007, he won cartooning’s top honor, putting him in the company of Charles M. Schulz, Mort Walker, Gary Larson, Matt Groening and others.Credit…Librado Romero/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Al Jaffee, Whose Wit Added Wrinkles to Mad’s Back Page, Dies at 102” (obituary, April 11):

The recent passing of the Mad magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee at 102 was further confirmation of something I’ve long believed: People involved in the “manufacture” of humor often live long lives, and retain their creativity deep into their later years.

Many of the cartoonists of The New Yorker’s golden age lived into their 90s: Chon Day, George Price, George Booth, Mischa Richter. Whitney Darrow lived to 89, and Al Ross lived to 100.

But this longevity has not been limited to draftsmen. George Burns and Bob Hope both lived to 100, Norman Lear is still writing at 100, Carl Reiner died at 98, and his “junior partner” for many years, Mel Brooks, is 96.

I am 74, have sold material to comedians you have heard of, and still try to write a little every day. One joke I’m working on begins: “Joe Biden and Donald Trump walk into a bar …”

Actually, I kind of stole that premise from the piano-playing humorist Mark Russell, who recently died.

At 90.

Jim Vespe
Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Baseball’s New Look

Credit…Mike Reddy

To the Editor:

Re “As Baseball Season Begins, It’s Almost a New Game,” by Steve Kettmann (Opinion guest essay, April 9):

I applaud Mr. Kettmann’s piece about the action-figure feel prompted by the new Major League Baseball rules changes. They are already proving their worth. The games are clipped, and the clock’s a savior.

It is, as he writes, almost a different game, though it’s really the game from a few decades ago. Players and fans are focused. The scoring and the pace are impressive. Wild starts to seasons can often create lofty run figures and batting averages, but there is no doubt this season really is fundamentally different.

I’d certainly welcome another change: a return to the (recent) past at The New York Times with a reinstatement in the sports pages of league standings, run totals, batting averages (a k a news, a k a agate) …

John J. Ronan
Gloucester, Mass.

To the Editor:

I know I am old, but doesn’t the world move fast enough right now? Baseball was the one major team sport with no ticking clock. We may have gained 20 or 30 minutes in our day, but at what cost to our souls?

Rusty Austin
Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The Era of Protest Songs

Credit…Illustration by Zisiga Mukulu/The New York Times; photographs by alxpin/Getty Images and The New York Public Library

To the Editor:

Re “Country Music Can Help Reform Gun Culture,” by Ketch Secor (Opinion guest essay, April 8):

I am reminded by Mr. Secor of a bygone era when songwriters and other musicians led the culture in peaceful protests.

Country Joe and the Fish at Woodstock; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Four Dead in Ohio”; the historic No Nukes concert in 1979 at Madison Square Garden with the biggest stars of the era — Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne — these were my cultural touchstones during troubling times.

Today’s musical artists have a longstanding American tradition to uphold, and an obligation to lead.

Robert Kraft
Encino, Calif.
The writer is a songwriter and the former president of music at 20th Century Fox.

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