Letters: ‘There were few words about one’s quality of life’

Our readers weigh in the right to die debate


Jack Hollingsworth / Getty Images

Whose right to die?

Having read your article “Why doctors want the right to pull the plug” (National, Nov. 4), I noticed there were few words about one’s quality of life. Our son Roger took 14 years to die while suffering from chronic progressive MS. After his final attack, he could not sit up unless supported and could no longer swallow. They were unable to feed him by a tube through his nose and he refused to have a tube installed in his stomach. Roger said his quality of life was so poor that he wanted to die. After discussing this with him at length, we decided to let him go, although it was probably the hardest decision our family ever had to make. We had all his life supports removed and stood by him until he passed away. Roger was lucid right up until his passing, which was terrible to watch as he struggled for that last breath. We think that to have gone against his wishes would have been selfish and undoubtedly not about his welfare. He was 51.

John Oattes, Sudbury, Ont.

Since the article provides no evidence of how many doctors “want the right to pull the plug,” the best that can be said is that an unknown number of doctors want this right. Further, the quote about the parents of the eight-month-old baby who hoped God would heal their son suggests that religious people are unreasonable and perhaps even fanatical. You suggest there is a conflict between rational, compassionate and well-meaning professional, and misinformed, religious fanatics who are somehow out of touch with today’s technological realities. End-of-life issues are tremendously complex and heart-rending for doctors and for families, whatever their religion.

Jim R. Vanderwoerd, Brantford, Ont.

It goes without saying

Is it just me, or does no one else think the title of Margaret MacMillan’s new book, The War That Ended Peace (International, Nov. 4) belongs in a collection of unfortunately worded newspaper headlines, such as, “Research shows most teen pregnancies occur before age 25”?

Richard Kerr, Oshawa, Ont.

Can’t put a price on mental health

Colby Cosh argues that it’s counterproductive to use figures to represent the estimated cost to the economy of mental illness (“The cost of lazy health reporting,” Opinion, Oct. 28). He suggests that mental illness is not on par with cancer and heart disease because doctors can “actually cure some cancers” and there are “strong validated treatments for heart disease.” He also questions the validity of schizophrenia, in part because there is no biological test for it. Yet diabetes cannot be cured, pain cannot be measured in a lab test and there is a great deal of empirical evidence supporting various treatments for mental illness, including antipsychotic medications. We do not treat people with mental illness “in the name of hope,” we treat them because they are just as deserving of health care as anyone else. As a mental health nurse and a person with mental illness, I am saddened that attitudes toward mental illness like these still exist.

Ashley Peterson, Vancouver

Who owns this town?

Leah McLaren writes about streets in London being almost deserted because of absentee, “non-domiciled” foreign owners (“Rise of the non-doms,” International, Oct. 28). She writes of “surreal” property prices driven by foreign investors who “don’t pay taxes” and have “no stake in the community,” with the people who actually live and work in the city paying the price. She says this is all being driven by the absence of “legal restrictions on overseas investors owning property.” London, you say? I thought this article was about Vancouver.

Ronald McCaig, Port Alberni, B.C.

Some of those ‘sons’ were women

So Emma Teitel thinks the Canadian anthem “pays homage to a time when men—‘sons’—were in uniform, not daughters, an era in which a lot of ‘sons’ lost their lives” (“Why the song must remain the same,” Opinion, Oct. 21). The first nursing sisters to serve officially with the Canadian military were the volunteers who helped the wounded in the North-West Rebellion of 1885. Contingents of Canadian nurses were sent to South Africa to care for the sick and wounded in the Boer War. They wore a uniform. In 1901, nurses officially became a component of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Core. Matrons had the rank of captain and nursing sisters the rank of lieutenant. More than 3,000 uniformed nursing sisters served in the First World War, close to the front, as well as on hospital ships. Many were killed in the line of duty. Does Teitel really believe Canada’s myopic men-only anthem doesn’t “sting?” I’m a female immigrant. Canada’s national anthem, which excludes women, stings like hell.

Jancis M. Andrews, Sechelt, B.C.

Why so secretive, Snowden?

Curious how Edward Snowden and his friends do not feel the United States should be allowed to have secrets (“Drinking Mother Russia’s milk,” Newsmakers, Oct. 28), but they refuse to disclose his whereabouts in Russia. I guess his address must be “classified” for security reasons. I wonder how he would feel if one of his visitors leaked the information to the press? By the way, President Obama’s address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington.

Joe MacDonald, Repentigny, Que.

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Letters: ‘There were few words about one’s quality of life’

  1. During my 16 years in England, I spent three years (1995-98) working as a caregiver – living with and caring for several elderly people suffering from advanced dementia. I saw first-hand how this disease leaves its victims trapped in a truly terrifying, living hell – with no way out except fading slowly and somewhat agonizingly into a merciful death. I often felt my charges were closer to anxious zombies than human beings – and did often wonder about the ethics of prolonging life as long as possible under those circumstances.

    My time as a carer left me decidedly unwilling to experience that kind of ‘life’ myself. As such, I can say hand on heart that the day I’m diagnosed with dementia is the day I start making moves to check out. When it comes that kind of illness, I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

    In fact, maybe we should be a little more like Latin America – where people appear to embrace and celebrate death rather than attempting to ignore it and lock it away behind closed doors, as westerners seem inclined to do?

    Raising awareness
    This year, I self-published The Carer, a short e-novel based on my time as a live-in geriatric nurse. Described as a “gritty urban thriller with a social conscience”, The Carer offers a “Faustian tale of elder abuse, patricide by proxy and the corrosive effects of power.” You can buy The Carer for USD0.99 from Amazon and all other major ebook retailers.

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