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Sue Rodriguez lost her pioneering campaign for the right to die in a legal challenge that was defeated at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1993. (CP)
Sue Rodriguez lost her pioneering campaign for the right to die in a legal challenge that was defeated at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1993. (CP)

April 27: Talking point – the right to die; and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Death divides us long before it arrives. Some argue there’s no such thing as the right to die, others that death with dignity, with a doctor’s help if need be, should be our birthright. Readers, print and digital, tackle one of life’s two certainties

We are not consulted about being born, and we ought not to determine the timing of our death (Right-To-Die Debate Resurfaces – April 25). There are so many things about which we are not consulted: country of origin, race, parents, siblings, abilities, handicaps to name just a few.

Denise Baillargeon, Toronto

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The right to die with dignity, with the help of physicians if necessary, should be the birthright of every Canadian. When a person is terminally ill, with no cure in sight, endures unbearable pain and decides it is time to die, who are we to tell this person that he or she shouldn’t?

Parliament should pass right-to-die legislation with adequate safeguards built into it. Our right to use this option is personal and does not interfere with the freedoms of anyone else. It is the only rational, sensible and compassionate thing to do.

Arthur Retnakaran, Toronto

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Palliative-care beds are not readily available for everyone. It serves no purpose to have pain and suffering as the prerequisite for dying. Assisted suicide should be an option, with laws that prevent abuse. I support a Canadian discussion toward the right to die.

Marian Pettit, Guelph, Ont.

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Assisted-suicide laws appear to make sense. But scratch the surface, read about the subject and one will quickly conclude such laws are inherently dangerous. Certain populations are at great risk – the elderly, the disabled.

People end their life because they fear losing autonomy and independence. Social supports for the disabled are grossly inadequate and the assumption is that death is preferable to life with a severe disability.

William Peace, Katonah, N.Y.

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If my life should become unbearable, I want the right to end it with assistance if necessary. Sue Rodriguez put it eloquently when she asked “Whose body is this? Who owns my life?” Many of us have a secret plan, but fear that we will not have the strength to implement it. We need to eliminate the secrecy and speak openly about this need to maintain control over our own lives.

James Reynolds, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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I am a reasonably healthy 80-year-old, physically and mentally fit, still operating a successful business. As I age, I occasionally think of the palliative subject – the humiliation of being dependent on someone else for basic needs such as nutrition, bathroom and hygiene. I think of pain, and the loss of thought.

Our leaders suffer from a malady called fear, fear or retribution from religious groups which believe that a supreme being has control of our destiny. Leaders fear that denying such control will cost them votes. The issue then becomes deciding what is more valuable: a vote, or the quality of life for an individual?

We must establish criteria for the right to self-determination without being influenced by religious beliefs. Our society is based on quality of life. I would hope that when my life no longer has any quality, the law will respect my right to self-determination and allow doctors to administer the relief of my misery.

Murray Katzman, Toronto

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God is the giver of life and only He can take it away. Palliative care in our country is doing a wonderful job of caring for people during their last days on Earth. We should never vote for assisted suicide in our beloved Canada.

Kathy Ng, West Vancouver

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Palliative care is not good enough. As an RN, I worked in long-term care for more than 32 years and witnessed unbearable pain and suffering on a daily basis.

The law definitely should be changed so that individuals who just cannot bear it any longer have the right to exit the planet when they wish to do so. We treat our pets much more compassionately than we do humans.

Susan Whishaw, Lethbridge

This debate is not about the right to die, but about the right to be killed. Let’s call things by their names in order to have a proper discussion.

Maria J. Zatarain, Burnaby, B.C.

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I am young (55) and I lead a full, vibrant and joyful life. I have been honoured to sit with many loved ones during their final months, weeks, hours of life, in hospice, at home, or in hospital.

I have cared for loved ones throughout long, painful declines and death. I have sat with others as death came quickly.

Sometimes the experience for the person is horrific, sometimes it is one of grace, love and peace. Every decline and death matters and calls for others to be present, with open hearts, loving and serving. Just like every birth matters. Birth and death: Each of us is called to, and edified by, giving these passages our utmost attention and respect.

I regularly tell my loved ones, and have it in writing, that there are circumstances in which I would wish to be “allowed” to die, rather than receive life-saving medical treatment. I have articulated circumstances in which I believe I would want the option of assisted suicide. I am prepared to travel to receive this assistance. I also have “other” plans, if that is too difficult.

I hope I can die with only a few weeks of illness and that I can have time to say goodbye to loved ones, but few of us will go like that. Better to have contingency plans.

Collette Oddleifson, Edmonton

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As Canadian citizens, we expect our government to assist us in our time of need. Never more so than when we wish to die in our own home, surrounded by our loved ones.

Not in Switzerland. Or Oregon. Or the Netherlands. Change the law on assisted suicide in Canada.

Karin Taylor, Toronto

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I believe that anyone who wishes to end their life should be given the means to do so. As you grow older and your body continues to deteriorate, there comes a time when you no longer wish to continue living. You want to exit from this life while you still have your dignity. My mother lived way beyond her capabilities and, in the end, was in little more than a vegetative state. She would have given anything to avoid that kind of existence.

Ilene Pedlar, Victoria

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MORE LETTERS

Committing sociology

Re PM Steps Up Attack On Trudeau Over ‘Root Causes’ Of Terrorism (April 26): I don’t think Stephen Harper meant to say this is no time “to commit sociology.” I think he meant to say this is no time to “commit science.” That would explain his wish to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area. Not that I’m looking for the root causes for his behaviour …

Doug Paul, Toronto

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Let’s ask the RCMP if it is time to “commit sociology.” Doing a form of sociology – trying to understand the concerns and workings of communities – is what has allowed the RCMP to develop relationships with communities that have shared their worries about a terrorist threat (How Faith Forged Security – April 25).

Understanding the root causes of social issues is just common sense.

Pamela Klassen, Toronto

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Me-too pay

Barrick shareholders, like many others, might well ask where their boards were while executive compensation soared (Say On Pay For Shareholders – editorial, April 25). Rather than reining-in executives, board members often simply join them at the trough. In many companies, board members now earn a cool quarter million or more simply by attending a few meetings and sitting on a committee or two. As you point out, making board members more accountable to shareholders is the necessary first step in any reform.

Gary McCaig, Port Alberni, B.C.

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Inbox, outbox, same box

I agree with your editorial The Flyers That Must Cease Their Flight (April 26) that taxpayers should no longer be burdened by politicians’ bulk mailings. The federal government stopped mailing income tax packages to taxpayers this year and cited two reasons: most citizens have computers, and cost savings. It’s time the government was consistent and treated MPs’ bulk mailings the same way. Citizens who don’t have a computer could pick up their MP’s bulk mailing at the local post office.

Eric Acker, Aurora, Ont.

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THE SPARK TABLE MANNERS

Two weeks ago, I had the experience of being the oldest, most hearing-impaired diner at a restaurant. I am 35.

I shouldn’t have been surprised; my meal was at a superhip Mexican restaurant in Toronto. But that’s the problem: Even if my party, a group of exhausted, taco-hungry parents, had the fuddy-duddy fight to ask for the blaring hip hop to be turned down, we knew there would be consequences – the way hot restaurateurs have been behaving of late, the owners themselves might have come over to chide us, or mock us on Twitter.

Globe and Mail food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith recently called out this trend in a piece on the growing food fight between diners (who are often impatient, demanding or flat-out rude) and chefs (who have been smacking down unruly customers on social media). It clearly hit a nerve, with a slew of reader comments, a continuation of the debate between the injured parties on national radio – and, this week, feedback from another Globe writer.

Feature writer John Allemang wrote from the point of view of the “casualties of a downtown-hipster scene that defines itself by eardrum-perforating ambience, unchewable house-cured offal, self-taught twentysomething chefs with laughable tats and a two-hour wait for unpadded seats at the communal picnic table.”

His story is partly a lament for baby boomers, who, if Mr. Allemang is any guide, feel frustration at the noise and rudeness of the food scene even more than I do. “Once you hit the age of a Barack Obama, the kind of restlessly fashionable dining experience that serious restaurant critics overvalue becomes disorienting, confusing and hard to take.”

But clearly the piece tapped into universal feeling. Online, younger “hipsters” themselves agreed with Mr. Allemang’s complaints. Facebook comments, meanwhile, ranged from the bitter and nuanced (“I suggest [restaurants] take a look at the way things are done in other parts of the world, where all customers are accommodated and made to feel welcome”) to the, well, bitter and direct (“Kiss this!!”).

The issue here isn’t just about dining, of course. Eating is about taste as much as anything. One commenter referred to Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term “conspicuous consumption”: “It’s not as if ‘fine dining’ was never a ‘pecuniary canon of taste’ and expressed form of ‘cultural capital,’” the reader noted. “See it for what it is, social exclusion for the expressed purpose of demonstrating cultural superiority in status.”

Kind of makes one’s stomach churn. As for any hope of resolution to this fraught battle? That dream may be harder to realize than a reservation at a new hot spot.

Dave McGinn is a reporter with Globe Life.

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