Dying on Our Own Terms
"In our society a murderer gets more compassion than a person who has led an exemplary life and becomes terminally ill." MARVIN C. ARTHUR Las Vegas
Thank you for your article "A Kinder, Gentler Death" [SOCIETY, Sept. 18]. I watched my father die of colon cancer while under hospice care. I asked the people on the hospice staff how they could work in such a depressing environment. The answer stunned me. They didn't focus on the sadness; they focused on the care they provided to the patient and the family, making sure it was a "good death." They felt they had done their job if the patient was able to pass away comfortably, surrounded by family members. I think I will count the end of my life a success if that's the way I am allowed to leave this earth: surrounded by my loved ones instead of machines. DIANA PIERCE Leander, Texas
Just because the medical profession has made advances that save lives does not mean doctors have to play God. They should quit worrying about lawsuits, stop providing unnecessary treatment and respect the wishes of the patient who wants to die with dignity. Compassion and common sense should prevail. BESS ARNOLD Cheyenne, Wyo.
Whenever I talk about death with my family and friends, they think I am being morbid. As you so rightly said, death is the only certainty in life, and yet we refuse to talk about it. We plan for the smallest journeys to known places but are not willing to prepare for the journey in death to an unknown destination. JAGS NARWANI Lawrenceville, Ga.
We celebrate when a baby enters the world, but at the end of life's long and strange journey, the terminally ill are sent to a nursing home or hospital to die, often alone. That is shameful. The end of life, like the beginning, should be spent in the company of loved ones, in a home rather than an institution. JOSH KIENITZ Lima, Ohio
TIME's treatment of dying in America was enormously welcome and resonated with some of the experiences I have had caring for members of Jimmy's and my families. The message on your cover, "Too many Americans spend their final days in a hospital or nursing home, alone and in pain," was first reported almost five years ago by medical researchers. Five years is certainly more than enough time to translate facts into action and study results, and it is sad that progress in this critical area is so slow. I am proud that Last Acts, a coalition of more than 500 very diverse organizations, offers a place where hospital administrators, insurance executives, doctors, nurses, clergy, Medicare regulators--and every family--can share ideas and strategies for helping Americans face their final days on their own terms. ROSALYNN CARTER Honorary Chairperson, Last Acts Plains, Ga.
The Real Land Down Under
In "The Real Australia," Robert Hughes wrote an erudite and insightful essay about his homeland [THE SUMMER OLYMPICS, Sept. 11]. We visited Sydney last year and came away feeling that Australians, besides being the most friendly and open folks you'll ever meet, share a special affinity with Americans. We want to dispel any notion floated by Hughes that Australians may not be the greatest people on earth, because our experience tells us that they very well may be. NACZ AND CATHE URBANSKI Pennington, N.J.