* Re "Assisted Deaths Ruled Legal," March 7:
The issue is not whether we are going to die but who has power and control over the process. Do I get to control how much pain, indignity and suffering I wish to put up with at the end of my life? Or is that power vested in the leaders of some church I never joined? Does the control lie with the doctors' union or is the doctor, whom I hire and pay, there to do my bidding?
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is entirely correct. These are individual--not social-- decisions.
Does the decision by the 9th Circuit Court regarding the legality of assisted suicide mean those of us, now or in the future, with a terminal illness willing to go the distance don't die with dignity? Interesting.
CATHERINE M. O'BRIEN
I am in a unique position to comment on the decision to rule unconstitutional Washington state's law prohibiting assisted suicide. I am a chaplain at a facility for the developmentally disabled and I also work with hospice (terminally ill) patients.
The problem with such a ruling is that evidence indicates physician-assisted death quickly moves from competent, terminally ill patients to nonterminal, vulnerable patients.
In the Netherlands physician-assisted death is technically illegal but most physicians are not prosecuted if procedures are followed, including reporting. The practice in the Netherlands began only for competent, terminally ill adults. There are now verified reports from the Netherlands that incompetent, nonterminal patients are becoming victims of euthanasia.
We need to protect vulnerable people by advocating for a legislative ban on physician-assisted death.
JOSEPH E. BELTRAN
I have always felt that laws that protect us from the actions of others represent a vested interest in encouraging the citizens of a society to conduct their daily interactions with each other in a peaceful and ethical manner. However, any law which would suppose to protect an individual from his own actions has the smell of intrusion into private territory.
Every individual has a certain personal standard for what he or she considers to be a "life worth living." Nobody has the right to expect another to live his life by their standards insofar as the endurance of personal pain and suffering is concerned.
ARTHUR G. SAGINIAN
What is the purpose of the government and its judicial arm if not to protect the lives of its citizens? How then can the citizens of this country feel secure in turning to their government when it allows for physician-assisted death?
STEVEN J. HOLTKAMP
It was "legal" to kill people in Nazi Germany; but it wasn't moral. A physician's professional and moral duty is to alleviate pain and depression and create comfort, not to aid in producing the death of a patient.
What's next? Hastening a wealthy grandma's exodus? Asking for parental consent to kill a retarded or deformed child?
WILLIAM B. SCHAFER MD