- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

U.N. summit more important than article claims

Bret Schaefer trashes an institution and event the U.N. Millennium Summit that he does not understand, twisting the facts to bolster his case ("United Nations non-event," Commentary, Sept. 23).

He claims the summit got little news coverage less than the United Nations' 50th-anniversary celebration in 1995. The facts are otherwise. Our own monitoring around the world shows that the summit and the Millennium Report on which it was based have received more coverage.

He also claims there was no news in the Millennium Declaration the summit adopted because it was drafted months ago. That is news to all those who participated in the negotiations that crafted the declaration through Labor Day weekend, just days before the summit.

Mr. Schaefer saves his real criticism for the substance of the declaration, which he finds deeply flawed because it only stipulates core values, targets and commitments for and by the international community. But what are declarations supposed to do? What would Mr. Schaefer have opined when the Declaration of Independence was written that it was philosophical jive and a bunch of promises?

Finally, Mr. Schaefer is sure none of this ever will amount to anything. How he comes to this certitude he does not say. It will come as news to the General Assembly and the U.N. Secretariat, from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on down, which are working on ways to implement the political commitments the world's leaders made at the summit which is precisely how the process was intended to work.

JOHN G. RUGGIE

Assistant secretary-general

United Nations

Washington

Alaskan oil is key to solving fuel crisis

Your recent articles on Alaskan energy potential for the nation should be read by every voter and every schoolchild ("Alaska's black gold," Editorial, Sept. 21; "Alaska: 'Energy or wilderness'," Sept. 17). Alaska's enormous reserves of natural gas and oil could be the catalyst of an effective new national energy policy.

Alaska already preserves most of the public lands in America. Its wilderness lands alone exceed the size of Idaho. Enough, already, of politicians locking up our land for special-interest votes. Instead, they should concentrate on making America secure.

Alaska's oil reserves could help Americans:

• Reduce imported energy from its present growth rate, which is approaching 60 percent.

• Reduce the balance-of-payments deficit, keeping America's wealth at home.

• Improve the world's environment by reducing the number of tankers importing energy into the country.

• Provide hundreds of thousands of new jobs throughout the United States.

• Reduce our dependence on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' pricing and supply.

• Enable our armed forces to focus more on defending America than defending foreign energy provinces.

• Reduce energy cost burdens to the most vulnerable in our society: the poor and seniors on fixed incomes.

As we approach winter, prices for gasoline, natural gas and fuel oil are rising. The Bureau of Land Management is evaluating an additional 70 million acres of Alaska for possible wilderness designation to serve President Clinton's so-called legacy. Where, one humbly asks, is the logic?

DAVE HARBOUR

Anchorage, Alaska

Assisted suicide puts patients at risk

Kaiser Permenente gave Kate Cheney, an elderly Oregon woman with dementia, a lethal overdose of federally controlled substances despite the fact that a psychiatrist had found she was not eligible for assisted suicide. According to the psychiatric consultation, she was not mentally competent and assisted suicide appeared to be more her daughter's agenda than her own. How did the health maintenance organization get around the so-called "safeguard" of a psychiatric consultation for mentally impaired individuals required by Oregon's law legalizing assisted suicide? It simply got another opinion.

In his Sept. 26 Commentary column, "How we meet death," Bruce Fein showed he had not done his usual research when he touted Oregon's assisted-suicide law and condemned the enlightened Pain Relief Promotion Act. He merely repeated Oregon state reports promoted by assisted-suicide activists without taking note that Oregon's state-run health plan for the poor and disabled rations health care for the poor and denies funding for more than 100 needed medical services, yet it fully funds assisted suicide.

Mr. Fein overlooked the fact that an Oregon HMO admitted to fully funding assisted suicide while it limits funds available for hospice care at a stingy $1,000. He also overlooked the fact that the first publicly reported case of assisted suicide was diagnosed as depressed but instead of receiving the effective treatment for depression she needed and deserved, she was assisted in suicide. He overlooked the fact that Oregon government reports have been criticized roundly for giving the public only glib reassurances while failing to reveal known cases of assisted suicide for the depressed and demented, economic incentives favoring assisted suicide, instances of assisted suicides failing, and the lack of any adequate "safeguards."

The real threat to good patient care is assisted suicide. If Mr. Fein were to examine the facts, he certainly would join the American Medical Association, the national hospice organizations and pain care specialty organizations in supporting the Pain Relief Promotion Act, not suicide for the vulnerable.

N. GREGORY HAMILTON, M.D.

President

Physicians for Compassionate Care

Portland, Ore.

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Bruce Fein asks for proof that Oregon's Death With Dignity Act is dangerous and then provides it himself ("How we meet death," Sept. 26). Wouldn't any reasonable person with a terminal condition, he asks, wish to spare his or her family the unparalleled agony and trauma of a protracted deathwatch?

That attitude lays a guilt trip on the dying, which is why the legalization of assisted suicide scares so many people. Praising the desire of some of the terminally ill not to burden others, as Mr. Fein does, pressures all those who are dying to kill themselves. It forces those who want a natural death to justify their decision.

Legalizing assisted suicide is not a matter of choice when it comes to determining who is eligible to die. Those who voted against Oregon's Death With Dignity statute wanted to maintain their current status under the law that their lives are so valuable as to be inalienable. Now, once they are diagnosed as terminally ill, they automatically will lose this status, and their lives will be deemed optional, not worth the full protection that non-terminally ill continue to receive. Where's the choice in that?

DANIEL AVILA

Boston

Kuwaiti, not Iraqi oil

The Sept. 19 story "Euro, oil belt markets with one-two combo" mentioned that Iraq has accused Kuwait of stealing its oil. However, the article neglected to mention that Kuwait has adamantly denied the charge and that we have offered to let independent analysts come verify our position.

While it is true that Kuwait is producing at its entire capacity in an attempt to raise production and stabilize oil prices, we are only pumping our own oil nobody else's.

TAREQ AL MEZREM

Media attache

Embassy of Kuwait

Washington

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