Thank you for writing the powerful story of Norman Morse and his desire to leave the Earth after a full and dynamic life (“I’ve lived long enough” July 10.)

My heart goes out to him and his desire to continue to make decisions about the course his life and death should take. It is distressing that his options for choosing his death are so limited and barbaric.

I knew an 89-year-old woman who recently died of her choice by refusing liquids and food. It took her 14 days to achieve her goal. This would seem to be a very torturous route to take, but there are few options available. I would think death would come more quickly by just walking out into the dead of winter and dying in the elements with a few provisions like the elders of some Native American tribes did in the past.

But it would be much more humane if people were allowed to die in the company of their friends and family in peace and privacy.

In contrast, my 14-year-old cat became ill with leukemia this spring. Within 10 days she was obviously at death’s door. I was so glad I could take her to my compassionate veterinarian who brought her peace very quickly and gently while I stood by her.

There was such peace in knowing that when the time was right I could help end her suffering. It is appalling that human loved ones have no real control over the time of their passing or the suffering they must endure before they go, but our beloved animal friends can cross gently to the other side.

I wish Mr. Morse the best — for a life well-lived and a smooth and speedy passage on to what awaits him.

Elizabeth Watkins


Couturier was an ‘unsung hero’ in Maine government 

Maine recently lost an unsung hero, Robert Couturier. Few may be fully aware of the impact this individual had on the state of Maine and specifically, Androscoggin County. This is because he quietly, selflessly and devotedly pursued the highest ideals for his state, county and clients as well as his family and friends.

At a time when people are cynical about public service, Robert gave reason for people to believe. He set the bar for generations to come.

For one of such stature, it is astounding there has been virtually no media coverage of his passing. One would think the death of: the former mayor of Lewiston (then, the youngest mayor in the U.S. at 24); former state senator; former probate registrar; a distinguished probate judge; and, a beloved attorney with proud ties to his Franco-American heritage would be recognized and honored commensurate with his esteemed career and character beyond reproach.

It is fitting Robert attended funerals of those in his community (on nearly a weekly basis) yet wanted his passing to be understated without any fanfare.

In his life, as in his death, Robert was who he was whether anyone was watching or not. This is the true measure of a man.

I had the privilege of knowing and working beside the Hon. Robert Couturier for the last 16 years.

Without Robert, Maine would not have the uniform Internet-based docketing system which the 16 Probate Courts currently depend on. Robert and I shared the bipartisan vision of bringing Maine’s probate court system into the 21st century and helped to do so on a shoestring budget.

In Robert, I found a true gentleman who put the needs of his constituents and clients ahead of his own. Much like Robert’s clients and constituents, I loved him dearly and miss him daily.

Dana Hanley

South Paris 

All sides in marriage debate should show respect 

My grandmother passed away last summer. She was one of the most beautiful and spiritual people I have ever met. She loved me unconditionally. She gave me advice which sometimes I heeded and sometimes I did not. She was always right.

The reason why she was right was because she had truth on her side. She didn’t lie. One day, when I was up to camp she said to me: “Always give respect, always demand respect.” I am thinking of her words today.

The same-sex marriage vote is being revived in Maine. In 2009 there was a horrible display of undignified name calling from both sides. Horrible slurs were hurled and many people who wanted respect failed to give it in return (on both sides). Fighting fire with fire only makes bigger flames.

Today I urge advocates for same-sex marriage to fight with dignity. We have truth on our side. We have facts, state them without trying to bring others down for their own beliefs. Fight with dignity.

How can we ask others to respect our beliefs when we cannot respect their beliefs?

If people use the Bible to state facts, thank them for their input then use the same book to state yours. If they use statistics to state their facts, then use statistics from a better source to state yours.

This country has a process. It has to be adhered to. Opinions, everyone has them, they don’t win wars. Facts, hard work, determination, truth, and dignity will get us there.

Please think before you attack others, whether in the media, online, or in person. Do not desecrate their signs, do not protest their places of worship.

All people in the United States should have the same rights. Isn’t that what we are fighting for?

In order to achieve respect it must be given, regardless of whether we feel the person deserves it or not. Fight with truth and respect for yourselves and others.

Many good, taxpaying American families in Maine are relying on us all and are praying for marriage equality.

Let us show respect for ourselves by showing respect for our neighbors.

Nancy Rotkowitz


Diabetes research is currently under way at Maine’s Jackson Lab 

Your July 10 Maine/New England section story shows that Mainers — including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins — understand what a public health scourge type 1 diabetes is (“Shapleigh girl adds her voice to fight type I diabetes”).

For more than 25 years, researchers at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor have been working to better understand the genetic basis of this disease. Federal funds that Senator Collins helped secure for diabetes research have supported important work at the laboratory, including that of Dave Serreze, Ph.D., who won the 2007 Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award given by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Type 1 diabetes is the least common — but most serious — form of diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes, many of them children, produce very little or no insulin, a hormone required to deliver energy to body cells, so they require daily insulin injections to survive.

Studies of type 1 diabetes at The Jackson Laboratory and elsewhere show it to be a genetically complex disease involving at least 30 to 40 genes. Jackson scientists have also contributed to research showing that susceptibility to type 1 diabetes may involve gene variations that once protected primitive societies against infectious diseases.

Today, with fewer infectious diseases in play due to better hygiene and modern medicine, these genes may be doing more harm than good. In other words, when the body’s immune system doesn’t have enough “work” to do, it may attack the body’s own cells, including those of the pancreas, increasing the likelihood of type 1 diabetes.

Susceptibility and resistance to human disease vary widely among individuals.

Understanding genetic variation is essential to a future of better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of type 1 diabetes and other diseases. This important work occurs daily at The Jackson Laboratory.

Jill Goldthwait

Director of Government Relations

The Jackson Laboratory

Bar Harbor