The right to choose
The desire for choice seems to be in America’s DNA.
As a people, we demand a cornucopia of choices in virtually every aspect of our lives. We demand everything from 31 flavors to 800 channels. We go to The Cheesecake Factory to choose between 300 menu items, in a mall with 400 stores.
Whole political and social movements have been built on the foundation of “choice.” Yet we have, for the most part, passively accepted the denial of any choice in the one area of life where it perhaps means the most. In most places in this country, we cannot choose how we want our lives to end. Currently 46 states, including my own state of Pennsylvania, have laws which force us to die in ways most of us would not choose. We are forced to endure unbearable pain that will never improve until death. We are required to die at a time arbitrarily decided by fate when we might or might not be conscious, or hooked up to tubes, or alone. It is literally a crime, usually a felony, for our relatives to help us end our suffering or enable us to decide when to die.
In fact, as I write this article, the newspapers are filled with the story of a woman facing felony “Attempted Assisted Suicide” charges for giving morphine to her 93 year old father with the alleged intent to end his undisputed suffering as he died from end-stage renal failure. This woman not only lost her father, but now has to face the prospect, as she mourns, of losing her freedom.
I find the status quo to be unbearable. That is why I have introduced the Death with Dignity Act in Pennsylvania. My bill would provide an option to those who have no quality of life, but only intractable misery toward death. Such people could, if they follow the protocols in the bill, legally acquire medicine that will quickly and painlessly end their lives.
Some people are concerned that I am encouraging suicide among those who are merely depressed. Let me be clear: if my bill becomes law, the lethal medication would not be available to someone who was having a bad day at work, or had just broken up with his girlfriend. Nor would it be available even to those who are in severe pain if they are not clearly at the inevitable end of their lives.
The bill requires any person wanting the medication to fill out and sign a notarized form, indicating that they themselves were making the request. They would then need two separate doctors, a treating physician and a non-treating independent physician, to attest that the patient has a terminal disease and has less than six months to live. Only then would the medicine be disbursed.
Ideally, the end of life is a time filled with sadness, but also sweetness, reconciliations and meaningful goodbyes. It is an intensely personal time that should be choreographed and lived by the person and the family affected.
The government has a legitimate role in assuring that all decisions made are knowing and voluntary. But government has no legitimate interest in actually making those decisions.
Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17
“Knockout” is definitely not a game
The Friday listing of movies currently in theaters displays warnings of obscenity, sex, profanity, nudity, violence and drugs in most of the choices. Television programs and video games often feature the same behaviors, which viewers in time come to see as normal.
Now groups of teenagers in several cities are playing the ”knockout game,” daring each other to sucker punch a random passerby as hard as they can.
So far three victims have died. If the person struck falls unconscious, you are congratulated by your friends. One person struck was a 78 year-old great-grandmother. When other teenagers were asked about this “game” they laughed, and said the gang was just having fun.
Much worse, university professors and TV journalists have claimed that the attackers were leading dead-end lives and were victims of neglect, thereby in a sense justifying, and condoning the behavior. Some impressionable teens, observers of these attacks which were brazenly posted by the perpetrators on YouTube, become copycats.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, says, “Monkey see, monkey do is a saying that popped up in American culture in the early 1920s. One definition implies the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge and/or concern of the consequences.”
Are these the values and behaviors we should want to constantly portray and influence others to emulate?
Budget proposal is hurting people in PA
A small group of elected officials in Congress is currently leading the effort to find common ground on a budget proposal to avoid a repeat of the federal government shutdown and prevent sequestration in the coming years.
Those are goals many Americans support. But how we get there could have devastating effects right here in Pennsylvania.
Among the proposals under consideration is an extension of the three-year federal employee pay freeze and a cut in take-home pay for federal employees through an increase in federal retirement contributions. If the committee is unable to agree on a path forward, then more furloughs of vital federal workers are almost sure to occur.
Many people think that federal employees are concentrated in the Washington, D.C. area, but the truth of the matter is that over 85 percent live and work outside D.C. The federal government is one of our state’s largest employers. So when you cut the paychecks of Pennsylvania’s middle-class federal employees, you’re also harming our state’s economy and local businesses.
I urge Pennsylvania’s members of Congress to reject these proposals, which would take millions of dollars away from our local economy next year and weaken our federal workforce for years to come.
What does ‘We the People’ really mean?
What do the words “we the people” truly mean? Some think it means we the people that believe what I believe.
If the constitution means anything it means the following: All citizens have all the rights within the law of the land.
If John and Joan are permitted to marry so are Tom and Henry or Mary and Sally.
That is the definition of “We the people.” I have always found that people that yell it violates traditional marriage completely ignore the first words of our constitution.
Fire Department faces opposition
For some reason known only to him, Mayor Nutter has declared war on the Philadelphia Fire Department. There is no other explanation for his behavior regarding them. He has fought against their contract, closed many firehouses and cancelled the promotions of 14 deserving officers.
Why are you doing this Mayor Nutter?
Do you have some deep hatred for firemen?
Did you once want to be a fireman and couldn’t pass muster?
It’s time to end this vendetta, good people are being hurt for no apparent reason and the city is less safe for it. And don’t tell us there are reasons for all this that we don’t understand or the city doesn’t have enough money.
You managed to find the money to create a few useless offices at great expense to fill your own needs, It’s time to help the people of Philadelphia. We understand your behavior perfectly.
Get real, Toomey
If only Sen. Pat Toomey were truly working on bipartisan issues, his lofty comments in your article ‘Talking with Toomey’ (Nov. 27) might be believable.
Instead of seeking evidence to destroy the Affordable Care Act, I wish he would work with his fellow senators to improve and strengthen it, ensuring the potential gain for all citizens.
Instead of repealing a meager 2.3-percent tax on medical devices, he should be celebrating this effective way to sustain funding of health care for all citizens.
When the uninsured get costly free care from hospital emergency rooms, does he think that we aren’t paying for that?
Get real. Please.
Tartaglione: we need to increase minimum wage
Ebenezer Scrooge is ashamed of Pennsylvania. He’s ashamed of this governor and some leading Republican lawmakers who lack the Christmas spirit and continue to refuse to increase our minimum wage.
While many of us are planning at least an average holiday in terms of volume of gifts and size of family gatherings and meals, Pennsylvania’s base hourly wage doesn’t even get minimum wage earners to the point of being able to enjoy a below-average Christmas.
To go “over the river and through the woods” from here to Pittsburgh, it costs almost $34 if you don’t have E-Z Pass. A minimum wage worker has to work almost five hours to pay for that trip to grandma’s house.
An average Christmas dinner — with turkey and all of the average trimmings — costs about $50. A minimum wage worker has to work just about an entire day to be able to afford that meal.
One of the most popular gifts this year is the Kindle Fire tablet, which costs about $180. If a minimum wage worker has a loved one who likes to read, he’ll have to continue buying used paperbacks because buying that tablet as a gift will take 25 hours of toil for the poverty-level $7.25/hour.
President Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage this month.
Ten other states, including Ohio, increased their minimum wage rates and tied them to inflation for 2013. They took out the politics by agreeing that base wage earners deserve to at least be compensated when there is inflation.
And, five other states, including New York and New Jersey, passed minimum wage increases effective in 2014.
Pennsylvania’s minimum wage has been stagnant since 2009, and our tipped minimum wage has not been raised for 15 years.
I was successful in raising the state’s minimum wage to $7.15/hour seven years ago. The federal government then pushed up that floor to $7.25/hour. It’s been far too long since the last increase.
I have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 858, to increase the minimum wage incrementally to $9/hour by 2015. After 2015, my bill would tie minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation according to the consumer price index. Just like other states have done or are planning to do.
I have also introduced legislation to raise the tipped minimum wage from its current $2.83/hour to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage rate by 2015.
I’m not the only state lawmaker who is proposing to increase the minimum wage, so there is more than enough evidence and shared opinion that this must happen, and it must happen soon.
When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, he said: “Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”
Darkness IS cheap. Our minimum wage workers DON’T like it. This legislature and this governor must depart from the current course.
As Scrooge said: “If the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” ••
Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione