How Low Can You Go?

Just took a gander at this week’s offering. All that I can say is egads! Leading off with an article about obtaining pentobarbital in TJ to off yourself (“Suicide Tourism,” Cover Story, August 21)? Then trying to smuggle it back to Australia or New Zealand? Let alone back across the San Ysidro (among other points of entry) crossing into America?

Look, I can understand that those in the terminal phase of a horrid disease might want to check out and head for the afterlife as soon as possible. That is why the Hemlock Society is in existence. At least they have the ethics to present the sufferer with all of the options, then leave it up to the sufferer-in-question to make the decision.

Now we have the Aussie version of Jack(ass) Kevorkian (I will never call him a doctor, not after the garbage he pulled in Detroit) telling the terminally ill in Australia and New Zealand to catch the next flight to Lindbergh, hop the bus to TJ, and purchase a drug that is sold as an animal trank?

Way to go, Reader. I never thought that you could go any lower. By doing this, you have not only cheapened the concept of death with dignity, you have also provided the method for any fool with a death jones to obtain one of the most lethal barbiturates ever produced. For a bus ticket to TJ and $45, you too can obtain the means to off yourself, or another person, willingly or otherwise!

Next time, guys, think before you publish such garbage-in-journalistic-clothing. And stop giving dill weeds such as Philip Nitschke free publicity in their quest to be the Dr. Death of Ozz. Jackass Kevorkian was bad enough.

The other articles were enough to keep me from heaving my copy into the nearest Dumpster. Thank God the first one was the shortest. You need to improve your quality control, guys. ’Nuff ’ced!

Robert K. Johnston

Insurance Tourism

Thanks for your lighthearted yet compassionate coverage about the interest in buying drugs for a peaceful death in Tijuana (“Suicide Tourism,” Cover Story, August 21). As a mental health professional I think of suicide as an impulsive act, usually done violently, almost always alone, and in response to a problem that is likely to have a solution that is not immediately accessible to someone who is depressed. It has been said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

It is more accurate to think of the seeking of medication in Mexico as Insurance Tourism. That is, the people who are going to TJ are not “suicidal.” They are seeking a peaceful, dignified, certain way out if chronic or terminal illnesses make their suffering unbearable. They know that often at the end of life people lose control; decisions contrary to their wishes are made by others, and they may be forced to live when they’ve lost their personhood and dignity and they would rather die. They do not want to shoot themselves or jump off a building. They should be entitled to be in their own homes, with loved ones, and be able to die with dignity after receiving the best in hospice care, if that still remains their choice.

Fortunately, there are organizations that can provide information and support to those who want to explore a peaceful death, such as the Final Exit Network, ERGO, and Compassion and Choices. There is now an effort in Washington State to pass a law allowing terminally ill patients to get help from their doctor so they can die peacefully. Such a law has been in existence in Oregon since 1998. The Death with Dignity Act has worked well and has made Oregon one of the best places in the country for end-of-life care. Until we have lawful assistance in dying, there will be an increasingly larger underground network composed of those of us who want the assurance that they will be in control when the time comes.

In the Reader article Dr. Nitschke, a highly effective Australian doctor and right-to-die campaigner, asks rhetorically if I would agree that most people would rather take something by mouth to put them to sleep than to die with a plastic bag on their head. Yes, probably he is right, but we do not encourage our members to break the law by buying drugs in Mexico and bringing them back here. Other equally good alternatives are available. We would like to know that people would have a choice about how and when they die and that their death can be a peaceful one. Whatever methods are available to them should be legal and accessible.

Faye Girsh, Ed.D.
Vice President
The Hemlock Society of San Diego

There Goes The Neighborhood

In spite of what police reports have to say about the two July murders of 2007 and 2008 associated with Air Conditioned Lounge, witness accounts place both victims at the bar before they were shot (“Blurt,” August 21).

In May of 1999, when I purchased my home in the neighborhood north of Adams Avenue near Kansas Street, the nights were quiet. I did a great deal of research before choosing to buy here. I spoke with neighbors and visited the neighborhood at various times of day and night to make sure I wasn’t knowingly moving into an area plagued by nocturnal disturbances, barking dogs, and other negative factors that would make life here less than peaceful and quiet.

The trouble north of Adams Avenue began in summer of 2004, shortly after Air Conditioned opened. It didn’t take long to trace the repeated acts of vandalism, sex acts in public (on the corner in front of my house!), public urination, vomiting, littering, and the obligatory hysterical laughter and screaming associated with inexperienced drinkers when they have overimbibed, back to the bar. It seemed as if the regular nocturnal disturbances began overnight. My neighbors and I did our best to work within the system to solve these problems. We attended meetings of the Adams Avenue Business Association and met with the bar owner to try to recover the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of our neighborhood that we had experienced for years previously.

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Josh Board Sept. 3, 2008 @ 11:12 p.m.

Did anyone get a T-shirt for something John B wrote in his column? I'm not sure if it would qualify as a typo. But he mentioned a soda that he loved as a kid. And says something like "Nothing is better. Not booze, or Royal Crown Soda." was Royal Crown Soda that he initially mentioned, so I think he meant to write another beverage there.


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