An advocate for a Maryland "death with dignity" bill complains, "Why is it that I can put my dying pet to sleep to end its suffering, then have to sit with my dying spouse at a hospice?" ("Md. needs a death with dignity law," Feb. 18).
The comments suggest exactly why assisted suicide is far from "death with dignity."
Unlike animal pets, human beings possess the ability to transcend their physical bodies to achieve dignity and purpose.
The fact that a caretaker expresses regret at "having to sit with my dying spouse at hospice" unwittingly illustrates the pressures that can be brought to bear on the vulnerable, the disabled and the dying to end their lives prematurely.
The unpleasant truth is that when sick, elderly or disabled individuals are experiencing challenges that render them weak, depressed and extremely vulnerable, their caretakers will all too often prefer emotional relief to persevering in care-giving; insurers and governments will save money with a quicker end to life; overeager heirs may want to cut care short to preserve their inheritance; and coldly pragmatic health workers may want to clear the bed that patients nearing the end of life "uselessly" occupy.
As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop observed, the "right to die" becomes the duty to die. We should instead focus on palliative care, assisting families with vulnerable patients and upholding the true human dignity that transcends our frail bodies.
Jonathan Imbody, Ashburn, Va.