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An informational meeting was held Sept. 11 before Minnesota’s House Health and Human Services Policy Committee to hear public testimony regarding the Minnesota End-of-Life Options Act (“Debating a ‘good death,’ ” front page, Sept. 12). This bill, already passed in seven states and the District of Columbia, would provide legally prescribed medication to terminally ill patients of sound mind, with less than six month to live, the right to make the personal choice about where to die, how to die and when to die.

Those who support medical aid in dying gave testimony regarding their own grim diagnoses and the need to have control over their very last days. Others described parents and friends who suffered needlessly during their final days on earth. Those who testified against the bill told about how they were diagnosed as terminal but defied the odds and were still alive. Others were concerned that their loved ones with lifelong disabilities would not receive the dignity they deserved to live their best lives and would be seen as disposable.

Does government have the right to decide if one person’s belief is more important than another’s? Couldn’t somebody who wants the medication get it, and those who don’t want it don’t?

But that is not the most troubling question I took away from the hearing. One woman described her encounter with her insurance company. She needed medication to live. She learned her insurance would no longer cover it, and it was well beyond her means to pay the exorbitant cost herself. However, her copay for end-of-life medication would be $1.20.

How do we reconcile such life-and-death issues as long as we have a health care industry driven by shareholders and investors? And how can this system ever change when it is so ingrained into our economy? The health care industry has mutated away from health and into profit. My only solution is that we must try something else. We already spend more public money on health care than any other developed country. What do we have to lose by ending this senseless conundrum? We got ourselves into this. I think we are strong enough and smart enough to get ourselves out of it.

Mary Alice Divine, White Bear Lake

MARIJUANA

Let’s legalize — but only partly

I am a Democrat who was admittedly puzzled by my party’s push to legalize marijuana in our state when there are many other issues that need our attention. But after reading the competing letters on Sept. 10 (“Please, let’s pass on legal pot,”), here is my suggestion: Decriminalize adult possession but not sale. That way, Minnesotans can grow their own for personal use.

Douglas Johnson, Minnetonka

• • •

In the Sept. 9 commentary “DFL backs legalization movement at our peril,” the author accuses the Democratic Party of going all-libertarian. It seems to have become a “Republican vs. everyone else” issue; however, the Republican Party does not seem to be seeing the change. The pros and cons of marijuana use and legalization have been debated and in the papers for years now, and yet in a recent State Fair poll, 56% of Minnesotans think marijuana should be legal for people age 21 and older. This tells me that plenty of nonusers of marijuana support legalization, as well as many Republicans.

The author is concerned about use by young people, and rightly so. However, this issue should be covered by parents. Guiding children through the perils in life has been the parents’ job from the beginning. Frankly, when some youth are going to engage in experimentation and/or self-destructive behavior (and some are regardless of parenting), I think marijuana is a better option than any other illicit drug, or even the legal kind of feel-good substances like alcohol. I haven’t heard of an overdose death from dope.

The author goes on to say that “civil-rights concerns can be met with restrained enforcement and lighter penalties.” This implies to me that he is OK with adult use; let’s just take it easy on the users. It still makes it illegal! How are responsible users supposed to obtain marijuana? Ticketing and fines do not take the criminal element away.

Libertarianism, though treated like a dirty word in the article, simply means that people want to use their own judgment and be able to choose. The Republican Party is not acting commendably, and it needs to quit blocking the choice that most Minnesotans want and allow legalization to go through.

Christopher Bradshaw, Columbus

9/11 COVERAGE

A cause for sorrow, among many

There is no need for the Star Tribune to feel ashamed because the anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11 was not front-page news (“Doesn’t this date ring a bell for you?” Readers Write, Sept. 12). It was a long way from the most important day in our history, as a letter writer from New Hope asserted. I can think of a hundred events that outranked 9/11 in importance to our country: the Pearl Harbor attack, the end of two world wars and the Civil War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the enactment of our Constitution, just to name a few.

Hysterical reactions to 9/11 are what got us into the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So yes, it is a cause for remembrance and sorrow, but a tragedy that ranks quite low in terms of other events that cost much more in blood and treasure or brought about important social changes in our beloved country, now beset by so much division and rancor. Let us have the same sense of proportion that has been shown by the Star Tribune’s adequate and reasonable treatment of this sad event.

Carol Larsen, Plymouth

LABOR MARKET

Shortage of talent, or adequate pay?

With pay ratios of CEOs at all-time highs, please allow me to disagree with the so-called talent shortage (“Lots of jobs, few workers,” Sept. 10). Labor will naturally move to higher-paying work; therefore, when the pay attains the appropriate level, the labor shortage will go away. Additionally, innovation occurs to fill the void. Companies need to look at the way they price their contracts and finished goods and adjust accordingly. I would gladly weld, or milk cows, if that paid more than accounting work. If wages in the construction industry continue to rise, then I would consider re-entering the construction industry. At the end of the day, the American worker deserves a bigger slice of the dollar and management will have to eventually reduce its slice or increase product costs.

We all want more money, if not for ourselves, at least to pay our out-of-control medical bills.

Sean Fogarty, Sauk Centre, Minn.

LIGHT-RAIL ACCESS

Riding while blind is not made easy

I am blind and use a white cane, and even when I have a sighted guide assisted me around or on/off the light rail downtown, I find it extremely nerve-racking. There are virtually no safety features in the layout of the entire system for visually impaired riders to use. I can understand why whoever designed the system thought it would be great to have train cars that wheelchairs can roll in and off easily, but for everyone else, the design is flawed and dangerous, whether you are blind, sighted, a pedestrian or in a car. To put the train tracks where all three forms of traffic (foot, car and rail) must pass is begging for accidents. It should have been given a dedicated corridor that keeps the other forms of traffic safe. Disabled riders use subways just fine, and have been for years.

A true pity that the money that went into our light rail was wasted on such a terrible design.

Anne Baynton, Roseville

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