Letters to the Editor Opinion

Letters: I’m among the doctors who want Illinois to make medical aid in dying an option

Regarding the article “‘Right-to-die’: Is Illinois next to adopt legislation?” (March 5): As a family physician for over 22 years, I disagree with Dr. Kevin Garner, who is quoted in the article, that a physician should only “optimize (patients’) health.” We also must reduce suffering, especially for patients with incurable, terminal illnesses. While hospice sometimes can achieve that goal, studies have shown that nearly 70% of dying cancer patients receiving pain medication still experience breakthrough pain.

Medical aid in dying should be an option for mentally capable, terminally ill Illinoisans with six months or less to live who cannot get relief from any other option. Otherwise, we harm our dying patients by abandoning them when they need us most. I urge Illinois lawmakers to pass the End-of-Life Options for Terminally Ill Patients Act (Senate Bill 3499).

This compassionate legislation has a dozen requirements modeled after the time-tested 1994 Oregon Death with Dignity Act to prevent coercion. Contrary to allegations in a 2019 National Council on Disability report, Bob Joondeph, formerly an executive director of Disability Rights Oregon (DRO) for 30 years, an organization that has federal authority to act as a watchdog for people with disabilities and request confidential records, confirmed in 2019: “DRO has never to my knowledge received a complaint that a person with disabilities was coerced or being coerced to make use of the Act.”

While doctors sometimes underestimate how long terminally ill patients will live, studies show they are far more likely to overestimate how long these patients will live because they don’t want to crush hope for a miracle recovery. Oregon Health Authority data shows the average time between the first request for medical aid in dying and death is 30 days — months in some cases — proving terminally ill patients who request it wait until their suffering is unbearable before they take it.

In addition, according to the data, 91% of these dying patients were enrolled in relatively inexpensive hospice care covered by Medicare and Medicaid to manage their symptoms only, so they discontinued expensive, futile curative treatment. No federal insurance programs, including Medicare, the federal share of Medicaid or Tricare, cover medical aid in dying; only some private insurance companies do. That explains why a New England Journal of Medicine study concluded there are no substantial cost savings in choosing medical aid in dying over other end-of-life care options.

A 2021 Medscape/WedMD poll showed 62% of Illinois physicians personally would want the option of medical aid in dying if they become terminally ill versus only 20% who would not.

I’m among the 62% majority!

— Dr. Debra Stulberg, Chicago

Cost of short hospital stay

Over the holidays, my wife and I visited our daughter’s family in California. My wife has a vertigo condition that strikes her perhaps once every 10 years. Well, it struck. Debbie passed out on the bathroom floor at our hotel room in Sacramento. She was taken to a hospital, stayed one night and was released. Then the bills came in.

We are both seniors and are covered by Blue Cross and Medicare, so we paid nothing out of pocket. But just looking at those ripoff charges almost put me in the hospital myself. Her one-night stay cost our insurance providers $32,000. The hospital said it ran some tests. What kind of tests cost 32 grand? And it didn’t end there. Recently, we got a bill from the ambulance company. It charged $2,300 for about a 15-minute ride.

I suspect these outrageous charges are a game played between the medical people and the insurance big shots. I don’t have to pay anything, I hope. But looking at these ripoff prices makes me understand our health care problems in this country are driven by greed.

— R. Conrad Stein, Chicago

Losing sight of current crisis

I’ve thoroughly read, twice, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s op-ed on O’Hare International Airport’s future and can’t find any mention of the environmental cost of the airport’s expansion (“This decision-making moment will determine O’Hare’s future,” March 4).

Durbin cites the airports of Dallas, Atlanta and Denver and their enormous expansions, including the ability to accommodate larger aircraft, and warns that if we don’t “meet the moment by also modernizing and expanding O’Hare … the airport will lose pace.”

In this time of devastating consequences of climate change, it seems to me that we are “losing pace” in a much more serious race than the one Durbin speaks of.

— Carol Richart, Downers Grove

The state of guns in the US

Recently, a fourth grader brought a loaded gun to my grandson’s elementary school. The mother was arrested and the boy expelled. I am livid. What kind of country worships guns and the horrific damage they inflict on a daily basis?

Right now, guns are the leading cause of childhood death. The gun lobby and the Republicans are in bed together and base their stance on a misreading of the Constitution. It clearly states that guns are to be used to form a militia to fight against an attack by outsiders, not to be used to kill other citizens.

Today, with our armed services, police departments, etc., we have ample means to protect ourselves against other nations. We do not need homegrown militias.

The Constitution is old and, in many respects, out of date for a modern, complex country of 340 million people. Would we go to a doctor who still practices medicine the way it was done 250 years ago? Of course not. Yet we still base so many decisions on a document that was put together by a group of men — wealthy, white men — who, although very progressive in some ideals, still agreed to allow slavery, ignored women’s rights completely and couldn’t have ever imagined the kinds of weapons that would be invented and used against the children of their nation.

There is much, in terms of a general guide, to admire in our Constitution. I love this country for its basic ideals of “all men are created equal,” but even that belief came with caveats by our forefathers .There is also much in that document that led our nation toward possible destruction, such as the inclusion of the rights to own other human beings. They were flawed men, not perfect men. And even they knew that the Constitution needed the flexibility to adapt to change, which is why they included the path to do so.

It’s time we acknowledge that our forefathers would be horrified that small children in school would be victims of their attempts to protect our fledgling nation against much larger and stronger nations. It’s time we recognize that widespread and unfettered ownership of guns is horrific in this nation. And increasing at an alarming rate.

How many more small children must be blown to bits before we act to stop this carnage?

— Karen Evans, Glen Ellyn

Politicians should pay up

Chicago is looking for money to pay the huge bills for taking care of the migrants who have come here. Whether the money comes from federal, state, county or local levels, the money ultimately comes from us, the taxpayers. It’s a hefty price to pay, especially since Chicago aldermen won’t allow Chicago voters to decide on the continuance of the sanctuary ordinance.

When the funds come from the federal government, however, Americans, most of whom live in nonsanctuary cities where their governments are more fiscally responsible, have to pitch in for Chicago’s malfeasance. It’s like a family that pitches in to satisfy the foolish spending habits of one of its members.

These politicians should have their wages and campaign war chests used to pay these bills.

— Larry E. Nazimek, Chicago

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email [email protected].

Chicago Tribune , 2024-03-10 09:59:42

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