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Choosing how to end a life

To the editor: Dr. Ken Murray makes some salient points about end-of-life care. Most people want to die at home, which has been made more feasible by the increased use of hospices. It is not necessary to be wealthy to do this, as palliative care and hospices are readily available. ("'How Doctors Die' author isn't sold on California's End of Life Option Act," op-ed, April 28)

But often they are presented as options very late in people's disease process — or they are not presented at all.

Stopping nutrition and hydration can be a kind way to die, particularly when pain, anxiety and other symptoms are effectively controlled; this is not suicide, but rather a conscious choice.

For the "very small numbers" that choose assisted suicide, Dr. Murray would have veterinarians, physicians' assistants or nurse practitioners write the lethal prescription — anybody but the "physician being the agent of doing it." This is the most glaring abdication of responsibility I have read in a long time.

Let's work instead to minimize the reasons people choose it in the first place.

Mario Milch, MD, Los Angeles


To the editor: In 1974, my mother chose to speed her death by the method Dr. Murray describes as "one of the most gentle types of death." Although semiconscious, she steadfastly refused even a sip of water.

As the days went by her unrelenting pain increased, and she slipped into a vegetative state. The moans, gasps and thrashing of an inert body, no longer our beloved mother, were a travesty to her and to us. She died after five days of "cessation of nutrition and hydration," but the memory of that time cannot be forgotten.

California's SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, provides families the opportunity to cherish and celebrate the last hours with their loved ones.

Mary Rider, Solana Beach

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