Assisted suicide: Who has the right to decide?

Admittedly, I do not have a perfect memory. However, during the last presidential election, I thought I heard Republicans saying something to the effect that we needed less government and that the people in communities and states know best how they want things done. At that time, it seemed that the less federal intervention in state and local issues, the better. Now, I read in "Latest showdown over assisted suicide," (Nov. 15) that Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn't like the assisted-suicide law in Oregon and is attempting to impose his own opinion in the matter. It's not logically consistent to attempt to have it both ways. If an issue has been passed twice in state ballots, wouldn't you say the voters have spoken?

Richard Birdwell

Corning, Calif.

I am against physician-assisted suicide and, as a matter of faith, regard suicide as a sin; however, whether such assisted suicide should be illegal or not is clearly a matter for the people of the respective states to decide. I believe that America would be better off with some revision of the Constitution to establish some uniform national policies and laws; however, unless and until "we the people of the United States" amend the Constitution, Attorney General Ashcroft's actions are clearly and certainly unconstitutional.

Grant Hubbard

Apache Junction, Ariz.

Thank you for your news article on assisted suicide. I have seen firsthand the effect suicide, as a possible answer, has on patients. Life in any stage is precious. We've seen the so-called need for abortion due to unusual circumstances, such as rape, extreme ill health, etc. translated into abortion as birth control. Death is never the answer; however, the pull on family members to give up when the pressure of caring is so great, and on the patients themselves to end their lives (sometimes a temporary feeling) becomes what governs the caregivers, however well intentioned they may be.

We need to change the emphasis to life as the answer.

Robin Kadz

Calgary, Alberta

Military courts should not be allowed

I am responding to "How far Americans would go to fight terror" (Nov. 14). I am appalled that Americans would sanction assassination, torture, and the use of nuclear and biological weapons in the so called "war on terrorism." How can we support torture, individual and mass murder, the very tools of terrorism in an effort to eliminate terrorism? We cannot - we must not - sacrifice the human rights upon which our country was founded for the sake of expediency or in retaliation for any attack, no matter how heinous.

Keith Turner

Harvard, Mass.

It is extremely disturbing that your poll shows so much willingness to approve of the assassination of leaders in other countries or of the torturing of suspects. Does this mean that those who approve of our carrying out assassinations would, therefore, expect other countries to approve the same, to target our leaders for assassination? Once the values we hold for life and just procedures are abandoned, we enter a new, more-violent era. We would have no more claim to justice if we go into the fields and kill.

In addition, there is little evidence showing that torture brings out the truth. Torture depends on how quickly the victim gives in and says what the torturers want, whether it is the truth or not, just to end the pain. Two Mexican prisoners were just released, after serving time in jail because they were tortured into confessing to things they had not done. Torturing is inhumane and we demean ourselves if we resort to this.

Grace Braley

Yonkers, N.Y.

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