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Who Should Judge Others' Quality of Life?

November 02, 2003

Re "Disabled Are Fearful: Who Will Be Next?" Commentary, Oct. 29: Stephen Drake's fear for the welfare of the disabled is misplaced. When the Florida Legislature overruled the court's decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube it interfered with the delicate checks and balances that our founding fathers gave us to protect us from a dictatorship. After a full hearing, the judicial branch of Florida made its decision. The Legislature handed the executive branch the right to overrule the judiciary. Clearly this was improper and set a dangerous precedent. Under the dictatorship of Hitler, the disabled, along with other "unacceptables," were killed in order to purify the master race. That is the process that Drake should fear.

Leon M. Salter

Los Angeles

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Thank you for Drake's excellent, life-affirming commentary. As a 40-year-old Harvard-educated husband and father born with a progressive neuromuscular disability once thought terminal, I too have felt my life cheapened, even threatened, by much of the coverage of this and other so-called right-to-die cases. After all, surveys of medical professionals show they tend to underrate the lives of those of us who use wheelchairs, scoring our "quality of life" far lower than we do ourselves. Imagine how off-base they and other observers must be about people with even less mobility!

How well informed are any of us about the quality of others' lives? Can we ever be so sure as to decide that someone else's life is not worth living?

Ben Mattlin

Los Angeles

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