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Aid in DyingTwenty years ago I watched...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Aid in Dying

Twenty years ago I watched my wife die a slow and very painful death from abdominal cancer. Mercifully, death cut her pain short, probably by several weeks, when a compassionate doctor gave her an appropriate prescription and told her how to use the medication prescribed. His action took courage as well as compassion. He knew it was against the law.

A new law entitled Physician Aid in Dying (H.B. 933) has now been proposed in the Maryland House of Delegates by Del. Dana Dembrow, and it is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday. It offers to some suffering patients a merciful release from weeks or months of needless pain.

It is a very moderate law, loaded with safeguards. For instance, the disease must be both painful and fatal, the patient must ask for it repeatedly, and a second physician must be consulted. No physician is required to do anything against his or her religious, moral or professional principles. Helping the patient in this way is simply permitted, not required. The bill adds to freedom of choice for both physicians and patients.

Recent opinion polls, both in Maryland and nationwide, have consistently shown that at least two-thirds of those with opinions favor such a limited bill. For instance, a 1993 nationwide Harris poll asked "Do you think that the law should allow doctors to comply with the wishes of a dying patient in severe distress who asks to have his or her life ended, or not?" Seventy-three percent answered "yes" and 24 percent answered "no."

Opinions on it can be sent to Del. Ronald A. Guns, chair of the Environmental Committee of the House of Delegates (Annapolis 21401). I urge those who favor it to do so.

Ralph White

Cockeysville

Innovator

So retired Gen. Michael P.C. Carns, President Clinton's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, is an innovator (news article, Feb. 9)?

His plan, now implemented, sells F-16 fighter planes to other countries, then transfers the money back to the Air Force. The goal is to pay for newer F-16s Congress wouldn't allocate funds for.

The buyers are countries such as Morocco and Tunisia. As the Third World arms itself, the United States and U.S.-based companies continue as leaders in the world arms market.

The winner is the Lockheed Corp. As prime contractor on the F-16, they get to upgrade the older models before shipping them overseas, then receive contracts to build the new planes.

My guess is Carns won't have trouble with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the way other Clinton nominees have, and will. Lockheed employs thousands on Gingrich's turf in Georgia. It donated $5,000 to his 1994 campaign, and $10,000 to help fund his lecture series "Renewing American Civilization."

Carns' innovation makes the world a more dangerous place. If his nomination wins approval, somebody better keep an eye on him.

Hugh T. Skelton

Baltimore

Harsh Reality

Theories, theories, theories!

Thomas K. Dilworth's letter (Feb. 19) and others like him are full of theories about how raising the minimum wage will result in loss of jobs.

I say, let Mr. Dilworth and others who think like him try to support their family on the current minimum wage.

If he works a 40 hour week he will make, before taxes, less than $9,000 a year. But we'll let him work as many hours as he wants, he'll still find it almost impossible to support a family.

In fact, he may even discover the reality (rather than theory) of living on minimum wage sometimes means living on the streets or in a shelter.

Amy Donohue

Fallston

Gingrich's Choir

According to the article by former state Sen. Mary Boergers (Opinion * Commentary, Feb. 1), she is still in a state of denial over the results of the last congressional election.

The Republicans won. The Democrats lost. Get over it, Ms. Boergers!

The voters of eastern Baltimore County did not ignore the party affiliation of newly-elected Rep. Bob Ehrlich. They embraced his affiliation with the Republican Party.

The voters knew that if Mr. Ehrlich won, Newt Gingrich would get his vote for speaker of the House. Mr. Gingrich campaigned in the district for Bob Ehrlich. Bob Ehrlich should be proud to sing in Mr. Gingrich's revolutionary choir.

The voters pulled the Republican levers for the Contract with America and more freedom from government.

The political parties have not been weakened because voters have abandoned their "blind party loyalties," as Ms. Boergers contends. The Republicans won because they have learned to compete in the arena of ideas.

The ideas espoused by the Democrats were rejected by the voters. The arena of ideas is indeed a partisan place. This is as it should be.

There is a reason that two political parties exist. The two parties have fundamental differences over the role of government in people's lives.

The Democrats believe that what makes America great is government programs. The Republicans believe that the freedom of ordinary people to do extraordinary things is what has made America great.

Ms. Boergers' definition of partisanship is apparently when Republicans fail to do what the Democrats want. If that be partisanship, then give us more of it.

Ms. Boergers' definition of "traditional patterns of party affiliation" is when the voters continue to blindly follow the Democratic Party despite its bankrupt ideas.

The people have seen through the facade of liberal Democrats. Forty years is enough.

Eric R. Martin

Perry Hall

Expensive War on Drugs Not Working

The Feb. 25 Maryland section of The Sun was composed of less than three full pages of text other than classifieds, obits, ads and weather information. Among the few major articles to be found in those two-plus pages were:

* A lawsuit filed against the mayor of Baltimore by two police officers who participated in a misguided drug raid directed at one of his family members.

The officers broke down the door and stormed inside looking for cocaine, which was not found. They are suing because they feel that this incident has had an adverse affect on their careers, due to mayoral intervention.

* A drug dealer receiving four life sentences for his drug-related activities, in addition to his involvement in the random-bullet murder of a 10-year-old boy in East Baltimore and the subsequent killing of a witness to that crime.

* The attempted rejuvenation of an older Baltimore County neighborhood in which one apartment complex alone is responsible for 4,000 police calls a year, largely because of drug problems.

* A Baltimore man shot 10 times and killed by a police officer who says that he was threatened by the victim.

Residents of the area claim that "scores of police officers have swarmed" the area in recent months and have used "heavy-handed" tactics in an effort to rid the area of drugs.

Does anyone detect a pattern here? Our community, our country and our rights as American citizens are being routinely ravaged by this totally irrational and counter-productive "war on drugs."

The name itself is a purposeful misnomer, an example of war propaganda. There is not the slightest interest in ridding this country of drugs. On the contrary, drug taking is an integral part of our society; promoted, encouraged, and welcomed.

What is considered more friendly than, "Let's have a drink together?" The purpose of this entire decades-long destructive crusade is to eliminate certain "unacceptable drugs" whose difference from "acceptable drugs" is, for the most part, minor, despite what some would like to believe.

To achieve this marginal goal we have expended billions of dollars, caused the deaths of tens of thousands both in America and foreign countries which we have intruded into in the name of drugs.

We must one day realize that the problems attendant to drug use are minuscule compared with those caused by their prohibition.

Is alcohol a problem in society? Yes. Do those problems include gang wars, random murders, billions of wasted dollars annually, governments being controlled by immensely rich and powerful alcohol cartels, and children being enticed (if we exclude advertising) to both partake of and participate in these activities? I don't think so.

If a person wants to subject his or her body to the harmful effects of cocaine or opium or alcohol, that's the individual's business. This is America.

Let's end this incredibly lucrative, ever-growing cancer in one stroke by eliminating the profitability and turning our resources to something productive like education and treatment. This is not working.

Sig Seidenman

Owings Mills

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