Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who will you be?

Posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I am a doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Compassion & Choices can’t deny that its so-called “aid in dying” laws are a recipe for abuse, especially regarding the elderly. So what does it do? It changes the subject by posing a counter-question about pain.

I thought this was an interesting development given the experience of Randy Stroup. He was an Oregon resident who desired drug therapy to ease his pain and extend his life. The Oregon Health Plan turned him down, offering him assisted suicide instead.

Barbara Wagner had a similar experience. The Oregon Health Plan refused to pay for a cancer drug to possibly prolong her life and offered assisted suicide instead. Compassion & Choices promotes assisted-suicide as a “choice” for patients. Ms. Wagner, who did not ask for this “choice,” did not see it that way. She said: “I’m not ready, I’m not ready to die.”

In both cases, the Oregon Health Plan’s position was only possible because assisted suicide is legal in Oregon. With assisted-suicide now at issue in Montana, will you and your families be the next Randy Stroup? Will you be the next Barbara Wagner?

Kenneth Stevens

Sherwood, Ore.

Proud of track record

Posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Farmers in the western United States and the Idaho phosphate industry live in a symbiotic relationship (see “Building trust,” June 3, 2010). Agrium, Monsanto and Simplot all obtain raw materials from phosphate deposits running along the Idaho-Wyoming state line. From this they manufacture critical farm nutrients and weed management tools to keep small town farmers’ markets and Pacific-bound barges full of nutritious and affordable food.

These companies are solid long-term employers, contributors to local and regional economies, actively underpinning the civic and social welfare of the communities where they operate. Thousands of aspiring track and field stars thrill to their first sense of achievement at the Simplot Games. Monsanto is a frequent and long-time underwriter of programming on Idaho Public Television. At this year’s Tigert Middle School in Soda Springs, Idaho, only one company was honored to be present at the handing out of diplomas: Agrium, in recognition for “their many contributions to public education.”

In the last decade each of these companies has won praise through the Idaho Mined Lands Reclamation Awards for some aspect of their mining reclamation. All three companies have made significant investment in implementing new and advanced technologies for protecting ecosystems while mining, and restoring mined land to health afterward.

These companies exemplify care and concern for their workers. All three operate “Star” plants in southeast Idaho, facilities recognized by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for having the highest degree of voluntary worker protection. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s “Sentinels of Safety” award has been awarded more than once in this mining region.

Which is why a suggestion, metaphorical no doubt, that the phosphate fields of southeast Idaho are comparable to the oil pervading the Gulf of Mexico is irresponsible in the extreme. Besides our work in communities and with employees, we take our environmental responsibilities very seriously. Recent stories of high selenium levels are driven by improved methods of monitoring, diagnosis and detection, not by a growing ecological challenge. In fact, in 2003, these reports prompted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate. Its report, posted on, finds the phosphate-mining region poses “no apparent health hazard.”

The management of selenium brought to the surface by mining is a challenge all over the world. Science suggests that very small amounts can affect unique species in different ways. Some warm-water fish are highly sensitive to selenium, showing effects at parts per billion. The Idaho phosphate industry has spent millions of dollars working with state and federal agencies to study selenium in the environment, develop new mining methods and implement measures to address the effects of past mining practices.

Few in the oil industry rise in defense of the persistent oil slick growing in the Gulf. But the Idaho Mining Association will readily defend the commitment and track record of our phosphate producers. They are examples of responsible stewardship: aggressively addressing the environmental concerns from the past while continuing to provide our nation’s agriculture with the means to feed a hungry world.

Jack Lyman

Executive Vice President

Idaho Mining Association

Boise, Idaho

Two-ballot brouhaha

Posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I find it hard to believe that I cannot vote for whom I wish. I got the primary ballot, two of them, Democrats and Republicans. I feel very discriminated against—I don’t see well looking completely to the left or right. I would think Montanans would want a choice to vote for whomever they feel represents them the best. It seems many here are not thrilled with the politicians who are supposed to reflect their constituents. Many I don’t believe do, so I would like a choice, be it Democrat, Republican, Independent, Constitutional or whomever. I can’t even imagine that the two parties would even make this kind of thing a law. Give us one ballot and let us choose. Maybe they are worried—they should be.

Jack Wilborn


Washington’s mistake

Posted on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I am an attorney in Washington state where assisted suicide is legal. I disagree that our assisted suicide law protects the elderly (see “etc.,” June 10, 2010). Our law is, more accurately, a recipe for elder abuse.

Key provisions in our law include that an heir, who will benefit from the death, is allowed to help the patient sign up for the lethal dose. There are also no disinterested witnesses required at the death. An heir, or other person could administer the lethal dose to the patient against his will. Even if he struggled, who would know? The prior lethal dose request, voluntary or not, would provide the alibi.

Suicide proponents make it sound like “everyone is for it.” In 2010, bills to legalize assisted suicide were, however, solidly defeated in New Hampshire and Canada. Just this month, a court in Connecticut dismissed a lawsuit that would have legalized “aid in dying” in that state. The court’s decision noted: “[I]n almost every State–indeed, in almost every western democracy—it is a crime to assist a suicide.” Don’t make Washington’s mistake.

Margaret Dore

Seattle, Wash.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Die free or live?

Posted on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I am a state representative in New Hampshire where we recently voted down an Oregon-style assisted suicide bill. The vote was 242–133 (nearly 70 percent). I write in response to your editorial. I disagree that assisted suicide necessarily brings “choice.”

In New Hampshire, many legislators who initially thought that they were for the bill, became uncomfortable when they studied it further. Contrary to promoting “choice,” it was a prescription for abuse. These laws empower heirs and others to pressure and abuse older people to cut short their lives. This is especially an issue when the older person has money. There is no assisted suicide law that you can write to correct this huge problem. Do not be deceived.

Nancy Elliott

Merrimack, N.H.

Another side of Israel

Posted on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 4:00 AM

The only thing new in Ochenski’s anti-Israel rant (see “Israel’s enablers,” June 3, 2010) is that he saved the “some of my best friends are Jewish” line for the end of his column. Most racists, homophobes and anti-Semites who want to express their negativity about an issue or a group usually begin their case with “Some of my best friends are black,” “I have a friend who is gay,” or “My Jewish coworker.” The list goes on ad nauseam.

He rants about U.S. aid for Israel. Who would you rather the U.S. give aid: Iran? Syria? Yemen? North Korea? Why did this so-called humanitarian aid flotilla decide to take this venture the day before Netanyahu was supposed to meet with President Obama? Did you ever stop to consider that this was a setup?

I suggest Mr. Ochenski take a trip to Israel. He might find a very progressive country where gays do not have to deal with a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He would find a country that allows its Arab minorities to serve in the Knesset. He might also find that there is a country that elected a woman prime minister before we elected a woman president. Oops! I forgot. We have never elected a woman president. But then gays, lesbians and women do not enjoy the same rights in other Middle Eastern countries as they do in Israel. Israel, with all of its internal differences, secular and religious, is a very progressive, open society.

Here’s one more idea: Read The Jerusalem Post. With little effort you will find Israel, a country of six million surrounded by 550 million Arabs, engaging in serious humanitarian discussions. There is a loud group in Israel voicing that the people of Gaza need to be treated better. This is in spite of thousands of missiles that neighboring Gaza launched into Israel. Meanwhile, the IDF does what soldiers do in a democracy, i.e. defend their tiny country so its people can engage in dissent.

In fact, when it comes to dissent the people of Israel may reflect the famous statement better than we Americans: “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.”

Edward Brown


Hydatid hysteria

Posted on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 4:00 AM

One way to save the humans? Educate yourself.

It is hard to believe that years after the irresponsible introduction of wolves infected with the parasite Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm into Montana, most people still don’t know about this potentially fatal disease. Known as Hydatid disease, infected people develop cysts of tiny tape worm heads in their liver, lungs or brain. They have to be removed surgically, and if they are in the brain, they are inoperable and fatal. This disease has caused the confirmed deaths of over 300 Alaskans since 1950.

I recently found this information published in The Outdoorsman, the December 2009 edition. It is titled, “Two-Thirds of Idaho Wolf Carcasses Examined Have Thousands of Hydatid Disease Tapeworms.” Now E. granulosus has been confirmed in two-thirds of the wolves examined by Fish and Game experts participating in a study evaluating the lower intestines of those wolves found in both Idaho and Montana. What has not been confirmed is how many coyotes, dogs, cattle and even humans it has infected. With a higher population density in Idaho and Montana than Alaska, the previously foreign disease has a new host; unsuspecting lower-48ers who have been deceived by their Fish and Game, and are now at risk of contracting and dying from the disease. Where are the warnings? They never came from the people responsible for “introducing” the infected wolves from Canada and Alaska.

Why the deception? And why wasn’t anything mentioned about the disease in the latest cover article in the Independent? (See “One way to save the wolf? Hunt it,” May 20, 2010.) It’s because the people pushing for the wolves know that if the public found out about the dangers of high wolf populations infecting deer, elk, moose, coyotes, dogs and even people with this disease, there would be a public outcry over the recent population explosion of wolves in the state. All I can say now is, do the research yourself. Find out about Echinococcus granulosus and decide if you want wolves running around in your backyard.

Jacob Chessin Wustner


Second life

Posted on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I am a retired office worker, who lives in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. Our law was enacted via a ballot initiative, which I voted for. I write in response to your article about Sen. Hinkle’s bill to prohibit assisted suicide in Montana (see “etc.,” June 10, 2010).

In 2000, I was diagnosed with colon cancer and told that I had six months to a year to live. I knew that our law had passed, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about doing it. I tried to ask my doctor, but he didn’t really answer me.

I did not want to suffer. I wanted to do our law and I wanted my doctor to help me. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. I am so happy to be alive!

It is now nearly 10 years later. If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead. I thank him and all my doctors for helping me choose “life with dignity.” I also agree with Sen. Hinkle that assisted suicide should not be legal. Don’t make Oregon’s mistake.

Jeanette Hall

King City, Ore.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Weighing in

Posted on Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 3:35 PM

I'd like to weigh in on a substance abuse issue that gets little attention. When life is threatened, children's health risked, and everyone endangered, it's time to criminalize the offending substance.

Recent studies demonstrate that women pass the condition to their fetuses, then continue feeding addiction to their growing children. These parents should be sent to rehab and their kids removed until they get clean.

America is addicted to junk food. Obesity is epidemic. Our Christian nation needs to crack down on the deadly sin of gluttony.

Fast food joints lurk on every street corner fueling this wicked habit. From McDonalds to mini-marts there's no escaping the pushers. Ubiquitous billboards entice our kids with detailed depictions of doughnuts, pizza and other fiendish temptations.

Victims so immense they're forced to drive gargantuan gas guzzlers easily get a fix without leaving the comfort of their bucket seat. Clutching Big Macs in swollen fingers, Big Gulps shoved between pudgy knees, cigarettes dangling from puffy lips, cell phones propped under multiple chins, all hyped up on a sugar high, they hit the roads. Driving while fat (DWF) is a hazard that could kill anyone at any time when massive heart failure strikes at 85 mph on the freeway.

As Arizona profiles people for looking suspiciously un-American, these less- than-anonymous overeaters can be easily apprehended. Fat chance of that because, unlike drunks and druggies, food junkies can't run (very fast) and they can't hide behind a badge, in a suit or under a robe.

Although the preceding is hyperbole, it's no more absurd than the current medical marijuana debate. A better case can be made against fat than pot, proving fatheads shouldn't judge potheads.

Wanda LaCroix


Running wild

Posted on Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 3:34 PM

In 2008, the Forest Service permitted a 30-person, 34-mile Swan Crest Run without the prior benefit of public comment or an Environmental Assessment (see "etc.," June 3, 2010). The Forest Service is now considering an application for a two-day, 50-person, 100-Mile Run. Runs elsewhere have grown to over 1,000.

Parts of Jewel Basin indeed already receive "20 or greater parties per week" levels the Flathead Forest Plan says compromises the ability of bears to utilize their limited habitat. Hiking clubs and other groups can minimize their impact by traveling together as a single party.

An organized run of 50 people spread out over 36 hours and 100 miles adds a lot of cumulative impact to the Swan Crest, in addition to already existing uses. If approved, a commercial permit will also set a precedent for others wanting permits for bigger runs, mountain bike rides, motorcycle rides and heli-skiing. The Swan Crest need not become one more mountain range overrun with people and extreme sports.

Commercializing the Swan Crest will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. The reasons the Swan Crest attracts people are the very same reasons the Forest Service should prepare an Environmental Assessment before deciding whether to allow commercial uses there.

Swan View Coalition spent years securing a volunteer agreement to establish a quarter-mile nature trail on the Flathead National Forest. The public comment process helped us move the trail to a less pristine area with lower environmental impacts.

A sincere public involvement process by the Forest Service could bring about a similar relocation of group runs to less sensitive areas; ones that could use the publicity and trail restoration work.

Keith J. Hammer


Swan View Coalition


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