Letter Box

Thursday February 14, 2013

Support for ‘death
with dignity’ bill

Editor of the Reformer:

Choice is a fundamental right that I believe mentally competent people with a terminal condition should have. It’s a choice to hasten their physical death if a medical diagnosis and prognosis is made and affirmed by two physicians that they have an incurable and irreversible disease that gives them no more than six months to live.

This choice is what a bill now in the Vermont Senate, S.77, will allow if approved by the full legislature and signed by Governor Shumlin who has already said he is supportive.

This choice would be a terminal patient’s own informed decision to make after he or she has received counseling on alternative end-of-life services, including hospice care, palliative care, and pain control available to him or her, and after a desire for medication to hasten the end of his or her life was made both orally and in a written request witnessed by at least two qualified individuals who can attest he or she is of sound mind, acting voluntarily, and is not being forced to make this request.

As noted in S.77, this choice became available in Oregon in 1998, in Washington state in 2008, and in Montana in 2009. In Oregon’s case, as of Jan. 14, 2013, a total of 1,050 terminal patients formally requested medication to hasten death and, of these, 673 patients took the medication and died in accordance with the law. Last year, in 2012, 115 prescriptions were written and 66 patients died after ingesting the medication. An additional ll patients died after taking medication pursuant to an earlier prescription, for a total of 77 deaths in 2012.

It’s worth noting too that Oregon’s population is six times greater than Vermont’s and that in the past 17 years Oregon’s hospice enrollment has increased significantly in response to the death with dignity law.

While other end-of-life measures like hospice and palliative care should always be available and encouraged and certainly will benefit many, they are not always sufficient or satisfactory. Pain control isn’t totally possible for some forms of cancer, like bone cancer for example, and mental and psychological; anguish can be even more difficult to relieve. In 2012 in Oregon 97 percent of the patients who used medication under the death with dignity law were in hospice care either at the time the prescription was written or at the time of death.

Taking control of one’s life and ending it in this way may not be choice for most people. It should however be a choice that’s available for those whose life is ebbing away in such physical and mental suffering that physical death becomes more inviting than a continuing physical life that lacks meaningful quality. I for one want such choice available if I’m in such a terminal condition why my time comes.

Bill Schmidt,

Dummerston, Feb. 5

Support for White

Editor of the Reformer:

As a former Selectboard member and board chairman, I want to join others in asking Lewis White to reconsider his decision to resign his Selectboard seat. While on the board with Lewis, he and I worked on several projects together and I found him to be conscientious and dedicated to doing the right thing for the town of Dummerston.

Lewis has done a good job as a Selectboard member and as chairman. Being the longest remaining member of the board, he represents the institutional memory of that body. I believe that the town would be well served by Lewis’s continuing to serve his current term and his next term after Town Meeting.

Paul E. Normandeau,

Dummerston, Feb. 13

On corporations
and states

Editor of the Reformer:

Howard Shaffer’s suggestion (Reformer, Feb. 1) that the Vermont legislature’s decision to shape state energy policy is like southern attempts to defend segregation under the banner of "states rights" is just plain silly. The question of state versus federal rights is far from "settled." The courts continue to rule on where the line is drawn between these two legitimate political entities. Corporations are well known for playing whichever card serves their own interests. They will defend state jurisdiction when it serves their interests or they will take the side of federal preemption when that is the most expedient route to follow.

Entergy has a sweetheart deal with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Can you believe the NRC granted Vermont Yankee a 20 year operating license on March 21, 2012 just 10 days after reactor models of the same design (BWR-Mark I) in Fukushima lost all emergency power and suffered multiple meltdowns leading to a complete shutdown of nuclear power in Japan? It was a curious ruling during a major disaster that was still unfolding and far from understood.

Entergy’s suit against the state of Vermont is the natural reaction of a mega-corporation. It is particularly ironic that Mr. Shaffer likens Vermont’s desire to shape its own energy policy with the heinous defense of segregation in America. Entergy is employing the same New York law firm that has defended Shell Oil against charges that Shell colluded in human right’s abuses against the people of Nigeria (Reformer, Feb. 1). Any port in a storm, I guess.

Corporations do not give a hoot about state’s rights or federal rights. Entergy is looking out for its own profits. When Entergy eventually shutters Vermont Yankee I am sure it will blame the state of Vermont and the raggle taggle band of protesters -- who have much more in common with the civil rights protesters of the 1960s than do the corporate lawyers earning six figures while trying to undermine the democratic decisions of our state.

The case of Entergy vs. State of Vermont is about corporate interests versus a democratic vision of a sustainable and self sufficient energy system for our region.

Andy Davis,

Brattleboro, Feb. 10

What a weekend!

Editor of the Reformer:

It will be a tough call for area residents this weekend. The Harris Hill Ski Jump offers bold skiers attempting to touch the sky, and Latchis Arts promises another ethereal pleasure: opera star Dianna Damrau in Rigoletto, Live at the Met in HD. The best news is that each event is offered Saturday and Sunday, so you can delight in both.

What a great town!

Becca Balint,

Brattleboro, Feb. 9


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