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I am so grateful that courageous Canadians like Sue Rodriguez and Susan Griffiths have made their struggles with terminal illness a public issue.

In 2005, our family learned that Betty, my wife and mother of two wonderful children, had a lethal form of brain cancer and had only months to live. Although Betty went along with the families' wish that she submit to the prescribed treatment to prolong life, she came to believe that we had made a mistake.

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Although Betty remained at home, and the palliative care and pain management were welcome, in the end she wanted to end the anguish of her decline, the loss of her independence and the loss of the self she knew. The inevitable, remorseless deterioration of her mental and bodily functions soon made her life unimaginably cruel.

We felt helpless, and my wife, a proud, independent, intelligent, loving woman was left to lose her mobility, her sight, her intelligence, her voice and ultimately her dignity. All this because we as a society cannot acknowledge that people of sound mind and body should have the right to make a rational and profoundly human decision to end their lives when dealing with a terminal illness. A majority of Canadians (almost two-thirds of us) believes assisted suicide should be an end-of-life option, as it is in some other compassionate societies.

There is no law against suicide -- just one that says people cannot be supported or comforted in bringing about the end, even when death is a certainty. Does that really seem right to anyone?




When our son was injured six years ago, assaulted and left in a 2 1/2-month coma, we were just so grateful he was alive.

His subsequent severe brain injury, however, has taxed us at every level ever since and affected us deeply.

Many times, he was suicidal. He saw it as his only solution. Yet he didn't really want to die.

I had the opportunity to ask a pro-assisted-suicide person how she would handle such a situation. "I would respect him and give him the choice," she said. The trouble is, this woman did not understand the complexity of his brain injury, nor does she understand that he saw himself as a nobody who is a burden to society.

More than anything, the injury has affected his confidence and self-esteem. Do you kill a person for losing their self-confidence? The knowledge that assisted suicide was legal would push him over the edge, adding to his sense of unworthiness as a burden to society. The pressure from a society that has stopped seeking viable solutions to help him may be more than he or his family would be able to bear.

He's attempting to live on his own right now, with supports. Slowly, we think and, yes, we pray, that his life will turn around. As for us, it may well turn out to be a good thing; you know, those sort of character-building things.

Susan Griffiths may well be depriving her family of a means to grow simply by taking care of her as she dies.

It is excruciating what some people have to go through, yet I don't ever believe that choosing immediate death is the answer.




Shunning the voters

Your April 12 story Voters shun division byelections should have been renamed "Candidates shun voters." To my knowledge, neither Ward 2 candidate canvassed, sent out pamphlets or mailings, or even placed signs.

My own Internet searches revealed nothing about either candidate. If the candidates weren't motivated to campaign or to even make information available to those trying to actively seek it, then no one should be surprised that voters didn't vote.


St. Adolphe


Forward-looking answer

As a downtown resident, I want to thank you for your insightful editorial on April 8, Nourish food deserts. Hopefully, strong and continued commentary from the press and the public will prod the city's executive policy committee to act collaboratively -- as is its mandate -- with the province and other bodies, and we will shortly see a full-service grocery store in the immediate downtown.

When one of the obstacles to addressing the loss of the grocery store is the rather tired question, "Which comes first: the size of the resident population or the basic amenities supportive of a resident population?", perhaps the forward-thinking answer is: "Both must occur incrementally and concurrently, and be supported by incentives."

Portage Place, with an ever-increasing expanse of retail vacancies and an increasing number of office occupancies, appears to offer a potential grocery-store site opportunity: It is part of the skywalk system; customer parking is available and additional incentives could be provided; it is on heavily travelled transit routes; it services the downtown-worker population as well as the downtown-resident population.




Fundamental conflict

Mia Rabson has proven again her ability to get to the meat of the question in her excellent April 8 column, Shedding 'socialism' bad move for NDP?

The debate over whether the NDP should hide its real program behind its back in order to get elected has been going on for as long as I have been a member, and this year is my 60th anniversary.

Socialism, social democracy or whatever you want to call it, will not go away because as much as some leaders would like it, the fundamental conflict between the oppressed and the oppressor, better known as the class struggle, is very much an influence on the relationship of political forces in this country and around the world.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2013 A8


Updated on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM CDT: adds links

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