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Speakout: Readers' Comments

Summer 2005

Political Football

My heart aches for the husband and parents of Terri Schiavo. My soul is disturbed that politicians have made their distress a political football.

My father lost half his face to cancer -- he wouldn't even allow his grandchildren to see him. After surviving the surgery, he caught pneumonia. He lay in his hospital bed, whispering "... ask, ... ask." My mother, brother and I didn't understand, but his caring doctors did. He wanted the mask removed. My father weighed only 68 pounds when he passed away.

I will never, never put my family through this.

My husband and I both belong to Compassion & Choices. Their "Letter to My Physician" has gone with our health care power of attorney to all our doctors and our local hospital. The counselors available at the toll-free number are so helpful.

It should be your decision to live or die -- not politicians or the courts.

-- Alene Duncan, California

22 Years Old

I should have the right to end my life if I am in a vegetative state or if I have cancer and there is no hope for me.

My niece just passed away; she was 22 years old. Her parents had her removed from life support because she had told them she didn't want to live like that -- because it isn't living. They simply did as she had wished.

-- Anonymous, Illinois


I wish Compassion & Choices would stop using the term "persistent vegetative state." I've had loved ones who were described by that term, and I found it very insulting. As brain damaged as they were, they certainly were not like vegetables. Human beings need not be dehumanized in order to make the case that they should be allowed to die with dignity.

-- Matthew Costello, Indiana

Editor's Response:

As an organization that values dignity, choice and control at the end of life, we agree with your distaste for the term. Choice at the end of life allows us to remain ourselves until the end, and we would never wish to denigrate seriously injured patients. However, the term "persistent vegetative state" is a medical one. When recording your health care wishes, it is beneficial to use the same terms that doctors use, to help make sure your wishes are understood and honored. For this reason, we use and define this term in this magazine.

Not Too Late for Me

My dear, 83-year-old husband, deep into Parkinson's and dementia, was admitted to the hospital with seizures and an unidentified infection. He has wanted to die for a couple of years.

He was identified as having a "swallowing problem," and was given thickened liquids and pureed foods. Now he can't even handle thin liquids, and survives bent over, on a sugar drip -- which I will now have stopped. He can hardly bear to look at me.

It's too late for him, but maybe it's not too late for me.

-- Pat Gladis, Pennsylvania

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This article was provided by Compassion & Choices. It is a part of the publication Compassion & Choices Magazine.