Electric EDGE
Web Edition of
The Ragged Edge
Nov/Dec 1997

Electric Edge


Death warmed over
Man with toothy grin

Disability: The Living Death." Insurance seminar advertised in the catalog of Onondaga Community College's noncredit continuing education courses.

"Another irony is that the catalog's continuing education blurb discusses how education extends one's life -- though I guess that doesn't apply if you acquire a disability," writes Edge reader Bonnie Shoultz. After complaints, said Shoultz, the college changed the name of the course.

Frowning man

Fashion vs. stigma
"There are a lot of people out there who need hearing aids, but there's such a stigma attached to them." Audiologist quoted in the Washington Post in a news story reporting that President Clinton was getting a hearing aid.

Question: how did eyeglasses ever come to be considered a fashion statement?

No vigor, no visitor
"You have a living person who ostensibly is all right [but] he is just out of it. I do not want to see him in this light anymore. I prefer to remember him as a vigorous fellow." Philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, telling the New York Times's Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., why he would no longer be visiting his old friend Ronald Reagan, who has Alzheimer's disease. Altman explains that visitors, seeing Reagan as he is now, disabled, "disturbs them . . . they feel uncomfortable with what's unfamiliar."

In a poll conducted by NTN Communications last January while the Supreme Court heard arguments on assisted-suicide, 78 percent of those polled said physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill should be legalized by the federal government.

Nearly 2,000 people took the interactive poll broadcast by NTN Entertainment Network via satellite to thousands of sports bars, restaurants and military bases,using a remote keypad device to input answers. (NTN's interative setup is used for multiplayer sports games, trivia competitions and various polls displayed on television monitors at bars and hospitality sites)

Who played (sorry, took the poll!):

69 percent were age 21-39.
86 percent worked full-time.
32 percent were college graduates.
average household income is $56,295.


Being a burden &
needing to die

If you're a burden on your family because you're ill [read: disabled] should you commit suicide? In Oregon, people seem pretty evenly divided .

If "a person's illness is causing extreme hardship on the family, and the ill person wants to die," 42 percent said they should be helped to die.

This scary finding came in a poll conducted for the newspaper The Oregonian Sept. 5-10 on whether Oregonians would vote to repeal the state ballot initiative "allowing terminally ill adults to obtain physician's prescription for lethal drugs." By a wide margin (64 percent) they said they wouldn't repeal it -- that the original ballot measure should've been allowed to go into effect (65 percent). Most (67 percent) saw the issue as one of "individual rights. . . . a person should have the right to end his or her life with a doctor's help if they are in great pain or suffering from a terminal illness."

Pollsters asked people to consider four hypothetical instances and say in which instance suicide should be legalized. People were most torn when it came to "hardship on the family" or when someone "suffers from a crippling disease they believe leaves them no quality of life"


Fewer than three out of 10 agreed that "allowing doctor-assisted suicide could start us down a road where we begin to allow people with a mental illness, or handicapped people, to be euthanized" and that "Our society needs to be protected from that risk." Most (7 of 10) said that while "Hospice care may be an affordable way to provide compassionate care for the terminally ill . . . dying patients should still have the option of doctor-assisted suicide."

Nothing was likely to sway voters' opinions, the poll showed -- neither the fact that the Catholic Church and the Oregon Medical Society both want it repealed (or the fact that the governor doesn't). The statewide telephone survey of 505 Oregonians conducted between Sept. 5-10 was published in The Oregonian newspaper on Sunday, Sept. 14. The poll was conducted by Davis & Hibbits, Inc., of Portland. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Should "doctor-assisted" suicide be legal when ...
... a person's illness is causing extreme hardship on the family, and the ill person wants to die?

Yes 42% No 50%

... a person is not terminally ill, but suffers from a crippling disease they believe leaves them no quality of life?

Yes 39% No 53%

... a person is terminally ill with a disease and has been diagnosed by doctors as having six months to live?

Yes 57% No 38%

... a person is terminally ill and in extreme suffering during the final stages preceding death?

Yes 73% No 23%


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