Recently, a retired doctor was charged with setting up what has been termed "a suicide machine," to be used by a terminally ill patient. The device would trigger a lethal injection when activated by a control held by the patient. The doctor said that he simply gave the patient the final choice of when to die. Prosecutors said he was an accessory to the crime of suicide.

Do you believe voluntary euthanasia (medically assisted suicide) for the terminally ill should be legal? Should doctors be the ones to perform it? How does euthanasia relate to the Hippocratic oath? Is there any difference between the currently accepted "living wills," which limit the amount of care a patient wishes to receive, and euthanasia?

Voluntary euthanasia is giving terminally ill patients the authority to kill themselves. If a person is able to consciously make that decision, then that person has the right to die. No one wants to die, but I think everyone ought to be able to have the choice of when they should die if there is no possible chance of recovery.

Why should a person have to prolong their agony and their family's agony when there is a chance to end it quickly and painlessly. The emotional effects of having a close relative who is terminally ill are painful and draining -- coming home from school every day and asking "Did he die today?" never knowing how long before he does pass on -- the feeling when they finally die is one of shameful relief instead of sadness.

Some families are not able to recover from the expensive cost of having someone stay in the hospital for an extended period of time. The bills will always be there to remind the family of the suffering they went through. MARK WAHLQUIST Osbourn Park

Doctors should not have the right to help patients commit suicide. Doctors take an oath which says that they will do all they can to help save lives, not help to eliminate them. A doctor cannot load a gun and give it to his patient and claim that he was helping that person. He is, in fact, helping to murder that human being.

The terminally ill patient may still have years of life left. During that time, the patient may be exposed to the Gospel, resulting in a saving knowledge of Christ. Also during those years, new discoveries might be made by those doctors and scientists still concerned with their job's main purpose -- saving lives. Wouldn't a doctor feel terrible to find, a year later, that the patient he murdered could have been saved?

All human life is precious. Shouldn't it be protected? ERICKA KEKIC Evangel Christian

I believe that all life is precious. Time goes by so fast on this earth that we must savor every minute. When a person ponders the question of whether one man should be allowed to take his own life, the person must look at the problem from both sides. Of course, in cases where patients are terminally ill, it seems logical that they should have the choice, but does that mean that it is right?

I don't think so. I believe that as long as there is a minute chance that a person may live to see another happy day, that medical technology should be used to keep them living. As we all know, there is an exception to every rule and in this case it seems to be the expense of such treatment upon the patient's family.

Overall, I think this may be the hardest and one of the most controversial discussions before the medical community today. Who has the solution to this problem? I really don't know . . . maybe God? RON RAUSS Stonewall Jackson

I believe that voluntary euthanasia should be legal and that doctors should offer this service to the terminally ill. The concept of death is very tricky and scary, but if a "living will" can be accepted, why is voluntary euthanasia so hard to accept?

I clearly understand why this is such a controversial issue in the medical world, because of the Hippocratic oath to preserve life. My only hope is that if I am ever faced with this situation, that the option will be mine. I know that life is precious and medical science has developed many ways to preserve life, but if it is painful for the patient to live, it should be his or her choice to live or die.

I know this is controversial, but if living wills are allowed, then so should be voluntary euthanasia. MICHELE RODGERS Gar-Field

When doctors take the Hippocratic oath, they state that they "will follow a method of treatment which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous." There have been news stories about hospitals taking infants' lives by not feeding them or not treating severe infections because the hospital has decided that "the child, if allowed to live, would not lead a productive or full life." It should not be within the doctor's power to decide if killing an adult or infant would be for their benefit. The doctors, along with everyone else, have no way of knowing exactly what a child may accomplish in his lifetime, if given the chance.

When I first heard these stories, I gave them some serious thought. It occurred to me that the one infant doctors may have decided should not live, could have been a future president. Just as a child's parents have no right to physically abuse him, doctors have no right to kill him. MELANIE LANE Osbourn Park

I believe that if a person is terminally ill, it should be that person's decision when to die. They may not want to spend the rest of their lives in pain or bed-ridden. The patient who has no hope for recovery, therefore, should decide what he or she wants to do with their last remaining days.

Suppose the patient were in a coma and on life support equipment. If the patient had not mentioned beforehand what he wanted to be done, it should be the family's decision whether to keep them on the machine or to let them die.

Although I am personally against suicide as far as for the healthy or the non-terminally ill goes, those who have no hope for recovery should be able to decide their own fate. TRACI GREEN Woodbridge

People say it is more honorable to die killing yourself rather than than undergo a prolonged death. But how is it more noble to die by poison rather than by disease?

Who knows what the future holds? Fortunes or lives can change in the blink of an eye. Also, doctors are human and subsequently, they can err. What if you were diagnosed too hastily and improperly? If you say it isn't very likely, history disagrees with you. Many people have lived full and normal lives even after being diagnosed as having incurable diseases.

Doctors who perform euthanasia are degrading themselves and their practices since to become a doctor, they must take the Hippocratic oath which clearly forbids euthanasia.

Life is full of pitfalls, but isn't it more honorable to meet these face to face rather than run from them. It seems that euthanasia is is the ultimate expression of self-pity. ROBERT GRIFFEN Seton Students Speak Out: Topic for November

The Supreme Court recently began hearing arguments in a case involving the execution of teen-agers convicted of committing murder. The court, sources say, will examine the moral maturity of the teen-age mind to determine whether it is constitutional to execute minors. Many think that juveniles should receive the same punishment for murder as adults. Others believe that a child who commits murder is "obviously not in his right mind" and therefore should not be executed.

Do you think juveniles should be subject to the same legal penalties as adults? At what age are people capable of recognizing the wrong in committing crimes?

Written responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. We are also interested in receiving political-style cartoons on the topic. Cartoons should be drawn on posterboard.

Students should submit their responses by Nov. 12 with name, age, grade and school included on the work to: Weekly High School Honors The Washington Post 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D.C. 20071

We will publish selected responses in the November editions of the Prince William Weekly.