If you ask any person how they want to die, most wish for a swift, painless death at home. Few will have such a peaceful passing. When an elderly person in declining health gets ill, usually neither they nor their family members know if this is the end or if this is a brief, treatable problem.

In the hospital, the doctors rush to stabilize their patient, giving IVs, medication, oxygen. Family members wait, hoping to catch a doctor’s attention to find out what is going on. It is only when the crisis is over and the patient is stable that anyone has a chance to consider what the prognosis is. Will the patient have any chance of recovering a decent quality of life? Or is the treatment merely prolonging death?

Even with hospice care, the patient is often lying in a hospital bed, catheterized because they are incontinent, doped up on morphine, unable to sleep because every few hours they are moved to prevent bedsores, waiting for a vital organ to fail so that they can escape the living hell that is the American way of death.

When medical care disrupts the natural process of death, it’s only just to help people get the swift and easy death they want, if they have clearly, rationally and repeatedly stated a wish for a quick death and have signed documents to that effect.

I appreciate Dr. Chuck Radis’ concerns about his Aunt Izzy (Maine Voices, April 12), but elder abuse of the sort he describes is preventable and uncommon, whereas the hell of a long, miserable death is all too common.

Frankly, making a person with no hope of recovery suffer through weeks of dying is grossly abusive.

Let people die with dignity.

Sigrid Olson

Cape Elizabeth