Life and Death Onstage

* I must challenge the conclusion in "Life and Death Onstage" (Second Opinion, June 22).

Making it legal for physicians to assist a dying person who requests it does one thing and one thing only--it gives the physician an option. What is so complicated about that? All of the ambiguity the patient, the family and the physician feel, all of the suffering that accompanies the decision, would still take place. The only difference is that the physician would not fear imprisonment.

This is why polls show that 70 percent of the U.S. public favors legalizing physician aid in dying for terminally ill, competent patients who request it. The public is not ambivalent about its morality.

The powerful institutions that oppose legalization and have so far prevailed, except in Oregon, in denying the public this option have manufactured the ambivalence argument because their case has no merit.

Myrtle Brickman

Vice president

Hemlock Society of the National Capital Area

Herndon

Shying Away From the Cutting Edge

* "Shying Away From the Cutting Edge" (Health News, June 1) could rightly have been written about all clinical trials research. Enrolling more people in all clinical trials could improve our health and speed progress against disease.

Women, in particular, need to be enrolled. Until the early 1990s, women were systematically excluded from participation in such research, at least in part to protect women of childbearing age. This was true even though women would use the drugs and procedures being tested.

Researchers are beginning to understand that there are important differences between men and women in their reactions to certain drugs and procedures. For example, the conventional cardiac stress test is far less effective with women than with men.

Scientists should routinely seek such difference through gender analysis. For that analysis to occur, women need to be encouraged to be willing participants in the medical research process. And just as it is no longer acceptable for women to be given treatments that were only tested on men, it is no longer acceptable for only men to bear the burden and risk of participation in clinical trials.

Phyllis Greenberger

Executive director

Society for the Advancement of Women's Health Research

Washington

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