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For Dear Life

July 17, 1994

While reading about Dr. Eva Carrizales' plight ("By a Doctor's Hand," by Barry Siegel, June 12), I felt like cradling her in my arms, much as she did that doomed child. This tragedy is a sterling example of why criminal law and medicine should rarely intersect. When we bestow on a person the license to make daily life and death decisions, which has to be the most difficult job conceived, then that person must also be given greater latitude in making those decisions.

A key mistake was that despite a peer review finding that the baby's care was not "below standards," the district attorney went ahead with a grand jury proceeding. Allowing laymen to define criminal conduct begs for a poor result. I wish this story were required reading for every district attorney. Maybe then, people such as Dr. Carrizales would feel less threatened for trying to save lives and actualize compassion.

STEVEN M. GOODMAN

Encino

As an oncology and home-health RN, I've taken care of many terminally ill patients. As doctors and nurses, it is our job to make these patients as comfortable as possible, not speed them on their way. Although I believe in euthanasia, it is not legal in this country. No matter how compassionate Dr. Carrizales may be, she crossed the line.

SHERRY OWENS

Running Springs

Every medical examiner, coroner and district attorney should be ordered to read "By a Doctor's Hand." All that was needed at any one stage of that tragedy was for a single bureaucrat to say, "The buck stops here." But at every stage, the bureaucrats instead bowed to the fear of criticism.

The work of Dr. Carrizales is important in a society that must come to grips with the rationing of health care. We are all very reasonable in our discussion of such matters, until we have to make a decision. I grieve for Dr. Carrizales, who is a victim of cowardice.

JAY HERBERT

Encinitas

No one likes to see people suffer, be they babies or adults. Doctors should allow people to end their lives and die with dignity. This decision should not be viewed as giving those in the health-care profession the right to end any life. Rather, it supports the view that doctors should respect the dignity of patients and not use life-support systems to keep people alive.

The courage that Dr. Carrizales has shown to let the baby die with dignity should be supported. Perhaps there will come a time in the near future when doctors will be able to make these decisions based on compassion rather than the law.

DELLA WIDJAJA

Los Angeles

We treat a dying animal in the road with more respect and dignity than most terminal patients. Doctors are terrified of making the decisions that Eva Carrizales did, and when they do make them it is probably from the safety of their car phones. They do everything they can to remove themselves from the emotional reality of death. When was the last time a doctor held a dying infant in his or her arms in an attempt to help ease the pain and suffering of their final hours?

Perhaps the baby could have lived for another few days. But it's not about quantity of life, it's about quality. A good deal of our medical crisis is precipitated by the "life at any cost" attitude of medical training. Until we have more doctors like Carrizales who are willing to make the really tough decisions, we will never be a "civilized" society.

JOHN STOCKWELL

Los Angeles

Here was a human being with no quality of life and with death imminent. So why the persecution of the kind and compassionate Dr. Carrizales? Because she committed the sin of taking a defenseless human being out of the medical system, where the hospital and all its ancillary services could have had a financial bonanza.

The right to die is one each human being should have. The only people fighting this issue are, in the main, those who stand to gain financially by "attending" to those who have no chance of recovery.

These people want to dictate to you and your loved ones just how you can die, even though it may mean more pain and suffering for you.

ROBERT ARONOFF

South Pasadena

Siegel asks us whether a "dignified, peaceful death" is better than "prolonged, gasping agony." Dignified for whom? The baby? The doctor? How dare the author project his opinions on the baby's struggle for life. I could easily claim that the baby strived for life with vigor, perseverance and dignity, but his tiny chance was stripped away by the doctor.

As a Christian nation, it is our duty to uphold the idea that all life is sacred, and that we are to preserve life to the very last second. The courts did just that. While the doctors waffled, the grand jury--the average citizenry--upheld the law.

RAUL E. ACOSTA

Beverly Hills

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