Letter: Don't make Oregon's mistake; need info on WWII vet

Posted

I am a doctor in Oregon where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Dr. Richard Guerrero's letter justifies his support of assisted suicide with a discussion of physical pain (Sept. 30).

In Oregon, there has never been a documented case of assisted suicide used because there was actual untreatable pain.

One of the first times I discussed assisted suicide with a patient was with a man in a wheelchair with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis who asked me for assistance with his suicide. I told him that I could readily understand his fear and his frustration and even his belief that assisted suicide might be a good path for him.

At the same time, I told him that should he become sicker or weaker, I would work to give him the best care and support available. I told him that no matter how debilitated he might become, that, at least to me, his life was, and would always be, inherently valuable. As such, I would not recommend, nor could I participate in his suicide. He simply said: "Thank you."

How we respond to someone requesting suicide can either reflect the person's inherent worth or can cause the person even deeper desperation. Patients can even feel pressured to proceed simply due to how we respond. For this reason alone, the deaths may not be voluntary. Don't make Oregon's mistake.

WILLIAM L. TOFFLER, MD

Professor of family medicine

Portland, Ore. Do you know this veteran?

This is an unusual personal request, for which I very much hope you will have the kindness to assist me.

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I served as executive officer on a destroyer escort in World War II. I am currently finishing a biography of one of the men on my ship, as a gift to his surviving widow, living near me here in Florida.

It turns out that, to complete this bio satisfactorily, I need somehow to acquire some information on a Navy shipmate/friend of his. All usual sources have failed me, leaving possible only your newspaper readership.

This man, Robert E. Wilson, a radarman in WWII, is known (from a letter reference) to have been living in Bennington, Vt., on Jan. 1, 1947. He was then out of the Navy, age about 22.

It is possible he or a family member may still be located within reach of your newspaper columns. Would you be so kind as to publish, in some appropriate section of your newspaper, my information need.

If Robert Wilson is not deceased, he will be about 85 years old. (I am 92).

JOHN W. PALM

Commander

U.S. Navy, Retired

Lutz, Fla.


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