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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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BCM welcomes letters from readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and must be signed to be published. Our fax number is (617) 552-2441; our e-mail address is bcm@bc.edu


UNTIL DEATH

As a practicing physician for over 17 years, I have unfortunately seen the evolution in the health care system from an emphasis on the rights of the individual toward the rights of "society" at large. Some might argue it has been the third-party payers promoting this shift, under the guise of cost containment. Each of the four presenters in the Spring 2005 collection of essays "Whose Life?"—Lisa Sowle Cahill, Jon D. Fuller MD, SJ, James Keenan, SJ, and John J. Paris, SJ—refers to the loss of personal liberty exemplified by the Terri Schiavo case. But we must also remember that in such cases the existence of a persistent vegetative state can be questioned, and we must ascribe a high emphasis on the value that such incapacitated human beings render to their loved ones (Professor Cahill taught me this).

The definition of human life, much like the care of patients, should not reside solely in the biology of the disease process. We must remember that there are psychological, social, and spiritual issues involved—not only for the individual, but also for the loved ones of that individual.

Sickness and death are not static, individual processes. Has our American popular culture, which seems increasingly to stress the importance of the individual over family relationships, induced such a frame of mind? Sickness and death entail communal processes. We must place importance on and respect the wishes of those who suffer with the afflicted. If we fail to recognize this, we will lose our legitimacy as physicians, and, more important, our effectiveness as ethicists and theologians.

We cannot define or set parameters on loved ones' wishes from our own biases. We must be careful not to place burdens on the afflicted, but we must also avoid placing exponential burdens on grieving family members for years to come.

Matteo J. LoPreiato, MD, '83

Berlin, Connecticut


After reading the essays in "Whose Life?" the following questions remain: How can we ever know what Terri Schiavo's wishes around end-of-life care were? And how were the concerns of her mother, father, sister, brother, and ex-husband addressed after her death? Answering these questions would have provided a more complete picture and better informed this moral/social dilemma.

Diana M. L. Newman '63

Associate Professor of Nursing
University of Massachusetts, Boston


It is regrettable that Boston College Magazine was unable to find either a Catholic theologian at Boston College or a Catholic physician who reflects more accurately the strong Catholic response to the death of Terri Schiavo.

To Fr. Keenan: Rather than running through guidelines put out by bishops through the years, wouldn't it have been better to check on how bishops see the reality of this case? The Florida bishops stated, "While withdrawal of Terri Schiavo's nutrition and hydration will lead to her death, if this is being done because its provision would be too burdensome for her, it could be acceptable. If it is being done to intentionally cause her death, this would be wrong."

To Fr. Paris: Your grandmother had it right in her dedication to the welfare of her sister. Her actions were generous and consistent with those of Terri's parents.

To Fr. Fuller, MD: I am at a loss to understand how the behavior of our cave-dwelling ancestors is relevant in this case.

To old friend Lisa Cahill: Ruing the inability of Terri's husband and her parents to reach agreement will not do. The moral difference between the two parties is too great and should give you pause.

Gerald G. Bilodeau

Professor Emeritus, mathematics


I am a pastoral associate in a Milwaukee parish. The articles in "Whose Life?" have provided me with the clearest Catholic positions I have seen on the topic, something I've been looking for, for months. Thank you.

Debra Hintz MA'84

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


"Whose Life?" supplies the kind of information that should have been on the front page of every newspaper during the recent, deplorable Terri Schiavo incident. The previous pope's comment in March 2004 on the need to provide artificial nutrition and hydration was very troubling to me, and so I was especially interested in the remarks of Fr. Paris on just how "extraordinary means" are defined. All four of the writers were top-notch. This is definitely an article to save and share with friends.

Patricia H. Vanderslice

Cobb Island, Maryland


Professor Keenan's article in "Whose Life?" is the most informative, cogent piece I have seen on the subject. Why couldn't the New York Times or a similar media outlet have done the research, so the public would have the true scoop? He should have been on Hardball.

Michael Quigg P'06

Jenkintown, Pennsylvania


VIEW FINDERS

Wonderful photomontage from James Balog ("The Natural") in the Spring 2005 issue. For another talented alumni photographer, please see www.johnalfano.com. John Alfano was my roommate and a fellow member of the Class of '79.

Daniel J. Hennessy '79

Lake Forest, Illinois


New Jersey? Jimmy Balog grew up in New Jersey? Are you sure he isn't really an Alaska boy?

Susan Meekins Sullivan P'99

Anchorage, Alaska


SCHOLAR ATHLETES

In Spring 2005, you had Al Skinner's portrait on the back cover, anointing him as "My Coach of the Year."

I have heard that the graduation rate of the basketball team (unlike our other athletic teams) is below 50 percent. If that is true, I hope we will reconsider our values and priorities. Being a premier school and a member of the ACC should not come at a cost to our academic standards.

John J. Hehir, Jr. '61

Jacksonville, Florida


NUMBER PLEASE

Re "Security Update" (Linden Lane, Spring 2005): I can only wonder why more than 100,000 alumni donors would allow Boston College to have their Social Security numbers—and why the University would want them. If, in an uneducated moment, I allowed the University to have mine (might it have been required at one time?), I hope any record of it will be destroyed.

I have a new idea for keeping alumni records: alphabetical name listings.

Donato Andre D'Andrea JD'68

Newport, Rhode Island


Editor's note: Only a portion of the University's electronic alumni database was breached in March 2005, and all alumni who might have been affected were notified. All Social Security numbers have since been removed from the University's main alumni database and replaced with randomly chosen numbers. Alumni may consult www.bc.edu/alert for more information.


NOTES ON AMERICA

"Discovering America" (Winter 2005), by Vatican expert John L. Allen, Jr., was revealing regarding the impressions that the traditional Church leadership in the Vatican have developed about Roman Catholic culture in the United States. I celebrate the differences that were noted. It's who we are. We had to fight hard to be, in effect, more Protestant than the Protestants.

Thanks also for addressing an uncomfortable topic—the needs of the homeless in the United States—in Dennis P. Culhane's "Home Economics." Like other aspects of health care in the United States, this is an embarrassment that we as a nation pretend does not exist.

Brian Condon '64

Cheshire, Connecticut


GALVINIZED

I have just read "Neutral Territory" (Linden Lane, Spring 2005), on the 50th anniversary of the Citizen Seminars, and was surprised that no mention was made of John Galvin '37. I believe he was active with Fr. Joyce in their founding and was involved with the seminars for many years.

Frances Dalton

Wellesley, Massachusetts


Editor's note: The late John T. Galvin was chairman of the Citizen Seminars from 1954 until 1963.


IMPROV PILOT

I enjoyed reading "Curtain Call" (Winter 2005), but you forgot to mention my favorite actor/director: my husband Mike Burke '93. Mike started the ImprovJacksonville Theater in Jacksonville, Florida, in the summer of 2000. He was stationed there as a Navy pilot, and he felt the need to feed an addiction that had begun in O'Connell House when he was part of the cast of My Mother's Fleabag. We have since moved from Jacksonville, but the theater continues.

Jennie Osborne Burke '94

New Orleans, Louisiana


 


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