Nov 162003

To the editor:

Imagine being a terminally ill patient, who is beyond human care

and in excruciating pain. A neurosurgeon once showed a group of

physicians and an ethicist a picture of a Vietnam casualty who had

lost all four of his limbs in a landmine explosion. The catastrophe

had reduced the soldier to a trunk with his face transfixed in


Because of such devastating internal injuries, the soldier was

not expected to make it through the year. In any event, this

patient dies — whether by acts of nature or by the intentional

acts of his physician.

On a whole, our social policy should allow terminal patients to

seek help in death, because in a free society, such as ours, it

should be a fundamental right to choose the time and manner of

one’s own death. The right to choose the course of one’s death is

as fundamental as the right to choose the course of one’s own


Many times, I think that we safeguard our society, by not

allowing controversial laws to be passed, because we are frightened

of the change that might take place thereafter. While no one can be

convinced of the outcomes of such a law being passed, death should

be an individual’s personal decision, not a decision of the

government or of a religion.

If a family has the right to take a loved one off of

life-support, and as a result, the patient dies, doesn’t it seem

unfair that we can’t have the option of dying prior to being placed

on life-support in the first place? Could relief possibly come

sooner for terminal patients if physician-assisted suicide was


M. Westbrook

Fort Collins Resident




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