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The U.S. Supreme Court Building on May 9, in Washington, DC.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

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Political psychology

Re As NATO-Russia Tensions Rise, Look To Kaliningrad (May 10): The point is made that few predicted Vladimir Putin’s move into Ukraine, especially those who have focused on rational possibilities. Risk-minimizing strategies are offered that involve both sides agreeing on solutions proposed by “calmer minds” with “common sense.”

I think the contributors should take another look at how they think it would ever be possible to trust any solution agreed to by Mr. Putin, calmly and coolly pursuing irrational obsessions.

Sheila Bannerman Red Deer, Alta.

One and the same

Re Call To Codify Roe V. Wade May Be Mostly A Rallying Cry (May 9): The issue was succinctly summed up by my 14-year-old granddaughter. She asked, “Are the people who oppose the right to choose an abortion the same people who protest vaccine and mask mandates?”

In the culture wars that columnist David Shribman describes, it appears that indeed they are the same group of people. I was at a loss to explain to my granddaughter their logic. Perhaps U.S. Republicans should ask their teenage children what they think.

Suzette Blom Toronto

Canadian outcomes

Re Maternal Death Is Rare In Canada. But It’s Not Rare Enough (May 10): Many years ago during my training at University College Dublin, professor Kieran O’Driscoll suggested that one could know the availability of social services and the importance of women in a society by its maternal mortality rate.

Recent figures show this still unfortunately holds true. On average, the risk of a 15-year-old girl dying of maternal causes is one in 5,400 births in high-income countries, and one in 45 in low-income countries. In 2019, seven European countries had an MMR of 0 in 100,000; it was 7.5 in Canada and 17.4 in the United States.

A rate of zero is possible. The World Health Organization has five recommendations to improve MMR. One is to “strengthen health systems to respond to the needs and priorities of women and girls.” Canada’s Minister of Health should instruct his provincial colleagues that this is a simple and inexpensive priority for Canadians.

Tom Durcan MD (retired); Burlington, Ont.

In the late 1950s and then the 1960s, I was a young RCMP constable in Newfoundland. It was quite common in those days, as I travelled the province, to ask a mother how many children she had. They would almost always say the number, then qualify it with the word “living.”

It is heartening to see that the province is in the forefront of studies on maternal deaths.

Bob Paradis Supt. (ret’d), RCMP; Ottawa

Positive results

Re Sole Female Heart Surgeon Takes On Alberta (May 9): On Sept. 7, 2011, Irene Cybulsky saved my life.

I had an unexpected health emergency requiring the replacement of my aortic valve. Dr. Cybulsky performed my surgery. Described as the best cardiac surgeon in the Hamilton Health Sciences network at the time by my cardiologist, her surgical techniques were excellent, as was her pre- and post-operative care.

Dr. Cybulsky recently won a gender discrimination case against Hamilton Health Sciences. She was ousted as the head of the cardiac surgery team after a number of her male subordinates complained about her leadership style. She was “not soft enough.”

Dr. Cybulsky left health care and went to law school. What an extraordinary loss to patients and staff alike. Hopefully Teresa Kieser remains where she belongs: in the operating room.

Mary Jane Cochrane Brantford, Ont.

Life choices

Re Assisted Dying Is Not Palliative Care (May 9): It’s true: Medical assistance in dying is not palliative care, but to say that MAID and medical assistance in life cannot occur in parallel feels disingenuous.

My 97-year-old mom spent the last days of her life in palliative care. She received excellent care and the staff was attentive. But she was medicated so much that we couldn’t say goodbye. As I sat vigil, I watched pain wrack her face. I heard her moan as she shifted to alleviate pain from her broken hip. That’s not living well, nor is it dying well.

People should be informed to make the choice best for them. But as long as health care providers create artificial barriers, that likely won’t happen.

Rita Scagnetti Thornhill, Ont.

Not everyone wants to live forever, and that’s okay.

My spouse accessed medical assistance in dying in 2019. He was offered far more information on palliative care than he ever was about MAID, despite his clearly articulated desire to access his right to die at a specific point. He was offered more surgery, more drugs, more rehab, more care and more life repeatedly, but he and I had to advocate strongly for him to access MAID.

MAID should be part of palliative care. The two should not be mutually exclusive. We would all be better served if palliative-care providers embraced this ultimate act of autonomy, rather than rally against it and try to convince people that they should want to live forever.

Cynthia Clark Calgary

Contributors Ebru Kaya and Leonie Herx write that public figures and clinicians with a strong bias toward medical assistance in dying fail to fully inform patients about the benefits of palliative care. Interestingly, I keep hearing about those who complain that anti-MAID clinicians refuse to advise patients about MAID.

Perhaps the best approach would be to stop trying to convince people this is an either-or choice. We could then advocate together for our governments to do everything possible to ensure Canadians are well-informed about – and have access to – all end-of-life options.

This should include palliative care, palliative sedation – and MAID.

Sherry Moran Ottawa

Lost cause?

Re How To Break Through A Weight-loss Plateau (May 9): More than 80 per cent of diets fail. That is, the majority of people who lose a significant amount of weight gain it back within a year.

In North America, we spend more than $70-billion a year on weight-loss products and services. In no other sector do we tolerate such dismal performance.

Deprivation changes the metabolism of dieters. Bodies learn to make do with fewer calories. That’s why it’s so hard to maintain weight loss over the long haul. Dieting is itself known as a risk factor for weight gain.

Science may come to an understanding of the best way to lose weight. But it doesn’t look like we’re there yet.

Claudia Cornwall West Vancouver

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