Right To Die -- Teaching Doctors To Talk About Death Is Crucial

Thank you for your story, "Doctors need training for the dying," (Associated Press, Sept. 30) on the report drafted by the End of Life Task Force.

As a hospice social worker I support the proposal that medical students spend time in hospice programs enabling them to follow patients through death.

The disclosure that many doctors "fail to communicate with dying patients and ignore or override their end-of-life decisions" must be linked to their readiness to discuss physician-assisted suicide since this is so frequently a concern for the terminally ill. Care for the dying requires open communication.

The Washington State Hospice Organization adopted a position statement on physician-assisted suicide in 1995 with the commitment "to continuing the thoughtful dialogue that this complex issue deserves." Following the Supreme Court decision to review cases on assisted suicide and determine whether qualified patients have a constitutional "right to die," it is imperative that patients, health-care providers and the general public engage in discussion on this issue.

Midge Levy President, Hemlock Society of Washington