Letters to the Editor 

Backlash on B

Thank you, for your look at Proposal B with the most recent column by Jack Lessenberry ("The politics of life and death, MT, Oct. 14-20).

However, we feel that Mr. Lessenberry misses out on a critical point in the discussion. Proposal B is more than a theoretical argument on medical ethics or religious morality; it is a very real threat to every vulnerable person in our community.

As University of Michigan law professor Yale Kamisar noted recently, if Proposal B passes there "are bound to be victims" and they will be "largely hidden from view" once the media spotlight fades. As he notes, because the "financial aspects of death and dying loom large in this country ... the uninsured and under-insured lack access to the more recent advances in pain treatment."

This observation is clear evidence of how our current market-based system of health care will have a disproportionate effect on the physician-assisted suicide rate of the poor who are more vulnerable to the economic forces that drive health care decisions in a free market society. This is just one example of how Proposal B amounts to bad public policy.

And in these final days before the November election we, the Metro Detroiters Concerned About Proposal B, are asking for the leadership in our community, to take a stand on this initiative and publicly declare their opposition to this bad legislation.

Metro Detroiters Concerned About Proposal B is a group of local health care professionals and clergy who represent hundreds of hospitals/hospices, churches, synagogues, and Muslim temples in Detroit's city and suburban communities. We have joined together for the purpose of defeating Proposal B, an ill-conceived, poorly drafted and badly flawed piece of legislation.

Consider this: If passed, this legislation will have tangible costs for all of us and has the potential to:

* Fundamentally transform the medical care each of us and our families will receive.

* Serve as a vehicle of abuse by unethical people seeking monetary gain.

* Encourage HMOs and medical insurers to limit coverage of pain medication and end-of-life care for everyone.

* Pressure those citizens with no health insurance to take the suicide route in order to save their family money.

* Create a new state bureaucracy to loosely monitor the actions of doctors to decide a patients' quality of life and, by extension, to facilitate death.

* Invite people to come to our cities, townships and suburban communities to die.

* Virtually close all records of the state's suicide department activities to the public -- including immediate family, law enforcement, medical examiners and the judiciary.

For these reasons we feel that it is time for the leadership in our community, to take a stand on this initiative and publicly declare their opposition to this bad legislation. And we encourage everyone to vote no on Proposal B. --Rev. James Beall, Rev. Kevin Butcher, Imam Mohamad Ali Elahi, Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin, Rev. Eddie Edwards, Dr. Maureen A. Fay, O.P., Rabbi E.B. Freedman, Rabbi Irwin Groner, Walter Hunter, M.D., Jeanne Lewandowski, M.D., Adam Cardinal Maida, Col. Franklyn Thompson, Francis M. Wilson, M.D., Rev. Edgar L. Vann, Jr.

Jack Lessenberry responds: Normally I would not respond to brain-dead groupthink letters like the above, but this one gives religion a bad name. Most or all of their objections are lies, as is their main premise. They basically are authoritarian/totalitarian in mind-set, and their real objection has to do with power; they think people's freedom should be curtailed in the name of the mystic holy spirit, for whom they presume to speak. Had the signers been alive in 1776, I have no doubt every one of them would have opposed the Declaration of Independence, on the grounds that some would abuse freedom.

The bottom line is this: Do you think that if you, when you are facing your final journey, ought to have the right to determine when enough is enough? To those who say no, whether they are a commissar or a cardinal, the proper response of anyone who truly believes in freedom ought to be: Go to hell.

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