The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion An American paradox: So many options, except for death

(Xiao Hua Yang/for The Washington Post)
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Inna Faliks’s Nov. 14 op-ed, “My mother left America for the freedom to die with dignity,” evoked an American paradox: The home of the free, where individuality is prized along with the absence of government interference in our lives, nevertheless tolerates the imposition of the morality of others on our personal choices. Though one may choose to follow a religion’s dictates concerning what manner of death is permissible, why should a state be able to create laws in this area — laws that neither physicians nor pharmacists dare cross without inviting legal jeopardy?

We moralize freely to others about issues from religion to abortion, from politics to climate. But where is an individual’s right to decide more important than in how to end one’s own life? Not everyone can afford to travel to another country to die with dignity and in comfort. The author’s father showed true love. The author’s mother should not have had to go to such extremes to carry out her simple wish.

Michael P. Fruitman, Ashburn

Before I finished Inna Faliks’s op-ed, I was in tears. It reminded me of my dad’s slow, torturous death. My dad, Bill Pearson, was part of the last generation to grow up without antibiotics, an injured World War II veteran and a doctor. He literally starved to death over a period of two months in incredible pain because his doctor was afraid sufficient medication to dull the pain would kill him. 

I would not let a dog die like that. Thirty years later, I still grieve for my dad’s horrific last days. One thing Ms. Faliks did not mention is the huge profit U.S. nursing homes make from the dying. Fortunately, now we have hospice; but many Americans get trapped in a system that has “no exit” without guilt and shame.

 Elisabeth Waugaman, Rockville