Dear Margo: Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

Margo Howard’s advice

Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

Dear Margo: I live in Massachusetts, where a Death With Dignity initiative was defeated on the Nov. 6th ballot. Do you think physician aid in dying is really necessary when palliative care is available to patients who have terminal illnesses? How do you feel about allowing patient choice at the end of life? Have you had any personal experiences with a dying relative or friend? Help me sort through this stuff! — Undecided

Dear Un: I, too, live in Massachusetts, and both my physician husband and I voted for the measure. I am pro-palliative care, but I also know that some illnesses do not respond to opioids. My mother, for example, had multiple myeloma, and no drug totally addresses bone pain. She said more than once that if she were able, she would bring down the curtain. I, myself, have a little list of illnesses that I would not want to see through to their natural conclusion. When life is no longer life, when there is little function, great pain and no pleasure, what is served by “letting nature take its course”? I have an aunt, now 95, who has had Alzheimer’s since the early ’90s. One can only imagine what the days are like for her and her family.

To answer your question, I think physician aid in dying would be a wonderful gift to suffering patients. Many of the older docs are steeped in Hippocrates’ “first do no harm,” but my hope is that the younger ones understand that oath to mean “let no one for whom life is a punishment suffer.” Theatrical merit aside, I very much agree with the title of the play, “Whose Life Is It Anyway?”

The states that have approved physician-assisted dying have shown no abuses and rather low rates of people requesting help. An interesting side note is the emotional comfort of such a law being in place. Many patients secure the means but do not use them.

If the religious lobby succeeds in blocking this initiative, people need not feel helpless. There’s a wonderful group of dedicated people who have made common cause with “Compassion and Choices.” They are at They offer local phone numbers and provide, well, choices. Often it is guidance to hospice. I hope I have answered your question. — Margo, compassionately

Oddball Showoffs

Dear Margo: My son “Ben” and his wife, “Kay,” love being the center of attention. This has caused many scenes. My other son’s wife, “Carol,” lost her mother last year. After the funeral, family members gathered at our house. Carol spoke with everyone but soon needed privacy. As she was leaving, Kay demanded she stay. Ben then announced that Kay was pregnant. Carol gave congratulations, and then she and my other son quickly left.

My husband took Ben aside and explained that it was inappropriate to make their announcement just then. Ben argued that it was convenient since everyone was together. Since then, Ben has called us for money, but he has excluded us from everything. We only found out about the birth because Kay’s mother kindly sent photos.

Now they’ve sent an email saying they want no contact. Kay wrote that we are an embarrassment and our values are not in sync with theirs. My husband wants to sue for visitation. I don’t want to be aggressive, but it seems the alternative is to just give up. How do we resolve this? — “Embarrassment”

Dear Em: Nice touch that Ben would ask for money and then inform you that they want no further contact. That pair of showboats sound seriously off base, not to mention mean. I doubt that you can repair things with them, given the way they think, but depending on the state you live in, you may be able to sue for grandparents rights. You can research this on the Internet. — Margo, appallingly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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80 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Letter #2:  Hard to know if your failure to give them money or your husband’s comments at the funeral offended them the most…probably both things.  The announcing their pregnancy at the funeral was a little *all about me* but I would be inclined to let that slide if the wife did not insist that Carol stay and instead, quietly told the family after she had gone home.  Definitely look into grandparent’s visitation rights…on the understanding that this act will likely sever the relationship permanently (if it isn’t already).  I might be inclined to bide my time and see if they mellow out and let you see your grandchild without a court order.  As for asking for money…you don’t say if you gave them any or not…I would not do so unless and until the relationship returns to normal (and probably not even then unless you just chalk it up as gift). 

    As for Letter #1:  I am with the letter writer on this.   I certainly would understand anyone with a terminal and painful illness choosing suicide.  But, I am a little leery of the greedy heirs who might want to off their incompetent (mentally or physically) parent prematurely.  If studies have shown no abuse of the process then perhaps my concerns are unfounded.    

  2. avatar Susan JH says:

    LW #1 — For what it’s worth, I think the choice of right to die is critically important.  Both my parents signed living wills, and our mother had to make the choice to take our father off of life support, which she did to honor our dad’s wishes, and with our total support. 
    My mother always swore she was the real Chicken Little, afraid of her own shadow, etc., but when push came to shove, she made the most courageous decision I ever knew anyone to make.  It is one thing to sit across the desk from a lawyer or doctor, with your spouse by your side, and say, “When the time comes, I want to go with dignity” when “the time” seems a long way down the road, but it is something else quite again to say after two tries of a treatment that wasn’t working, “If it doesn’t work the third time, I want to be let go and go and be with my husband”.  That was the bravest thing I ever knew anyone to do, let alone my mother, because I don’t care what your religious or other beliefs about an afterlife might be or how firmly committed you might be to those beliefs — in the end, none of us really and truly know with (excuse the pun) dead certainty what will become of us after we flatline in this life.  If anyone had tried to stand in the way of her right to make that choice, dealing with my siblings and me would not have made for a pleasant time.  Having to “pull the plug”, as it were, on both our parents was a very difficult thing, but we respected and honored their wishes, and so should the government and the entire medical community.

  3. avatar Sita says:

    Right now I’m watching my mother-in-law turns into a five year old. She can’t remember how to turn on the television anymore. When we explain things she would sort of understand for that time and promptly forget. Alzhiemer’s is a cruel disease. My hope is when I get to that stage, physician assisted suicide will be legal so I can die with dignity. People who never experience the pain of watching a loved one suffer will never understand why we need physician assited suicide. I’ve gone through 2 of them, first my father-in-law who had cancer and then my own mother with pneumonia. Mom had a breathing tubes for ten days. When she seemed to be breathing on her own the doctors were going to take the tubes out but asked us what we wanted to do if mom wouldn’t breathe on her own. We said definitely not put the tubes back. Let her die in peace as she had told us she wanted to.It was hard but we knew it was the best for her, because the quality of life was zero at that point. We euthanize beloved pets, but we can’t even respect loved ones life when there’s clearly no quality to it or when the person desire a dignify end to it.

  4. avatar Ariana says:

    There are too many details missing from LW#2’s story.

    Here’s our timeline:
    * Ben and wife like to be center of attention and make an untimely pregnancy announcement at a funeral.
    * Ben gets a talking to by Dad.
    * Ben calls Mom & Dad for money, meanwhile not inviting Mom & Dad to any events.
    * Kay writes e-mail to cut off all contact because “values don’t sync”.

    What happened in between those steps? Did they give Ben money and then never hear anything back? Was Kay’s e-mail right out of the blue? Sounds like this family has more problems than is being shown here. The mom & dad could try to contact Ben directly instead of e-mailing through Kay, but it doesn’t sound like any of them have very many communication skills.

  5. avatar Spuck says:

    To the second LW: At the moment all your share is a biological connection with this child. You shouldn’t go around suing for rights unless there is physical abuse going on. Your going to get nothing out of this situation by dragging yourself to court with these people. If you loose it will get cut off. If you do win there is going to be nothing but stress in this child’s life as they have to deal with the emotional baggage they will be forced to carry because of the tug of war the adults in their lives are putting them through. Find a life outside of this grandchild, and if your son and Dil decide to grow up and mellow out or the child comes to you under their own steam, kudos to you.

    • avatar A R says:

      I have to agree with you. If it were a situation where the child were not being cared for, that would be different. As it stands right now, adults have the right to cut family out of their life for their own reasons (don’t we say that on here all the time?). Just because the LW pitched their side doesn’t make them honest, right, truthful, or good. Except in weird custody situations or abuse, grandparents’ rights don’t fly with me.

  6. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – A physician should NEVER step in and take a life. Never. They are to save and preserve life, not aid in snuffing it out.

    Letter #2 – This all boils down to perspective.

    I happen to think it was the perfect time to announce that Kay was pregnant. At the very time people are gather in sadness to grieve the loss of life, they were told that a new life was growing. A baby would be born. What a joyous occasions. It would have been nice if everyone in attendance would have reacted that way.

    I don’t blame Ben and Kay for severing their relationship and not sharing details about the birth of the baby. The letter writer makes it a point to say after asking her for money this couple has the nerve to send them an email cutting them out of their lives. And? Your point? One has nothing to do with the other.

    The letter writer and her husband need to take a long hard look at how they really feel about Ben and Kay, it doesn’t seem they hold them in high regard. Yet they had the audacity to want to be a part of their child’s life? There is a huge disconnect there that this letter writer hasn’t realized yet. I say save your money by way of legal fees and any fight for grandparent’s rights. Let it go. If Ben and Kay have a change of heart that will be a blessing and happy event. But if they don’t, oh well… goes on.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      Re: LW1

      You speak like someone who has never, ever either been in pain or have seen someone slowly (or quickly) lose themselves and die in agony. Physicians are adults with volition – it is THEIR choice as to whether they will help a patient who has asked them for help in dying. YOU can choose whether or not to avail yourself of their services.

      What you do NOT have the right to do is force others to do what you want them to. Physician assisted suicide has been around as long as there have been physicians. Doctors who deal with suffering every day of their lives understand that there are times when life is a punishment rather than a gift.

      The fact that you have no compassion or the wit to understand that there are situations where death is preferable to suffering is your personal problem. Thankfully you aren’t important enough to force your nonsense on others.

      The Boy and I are retiring to a right to die state and have already made out wills naming each other as medical proxies with the understanding suicide is an option when one of us is suffering with no hope of relief.

      He watched his grandmother’s bones literally rot because of arthritis. She was in agony for years because of this and wanted to die for over a year before she finally did. My own great-grandmother lost her mind in pieces for years before she died. She was a beautiful, intelligent, lively woman who was able to understand what was happening to her and live in terror for years before she finally lost too much function.

      Their lives were important, and they had the right to decide when to end them.

      • avatar Michelles11 says:

        Messy One, I agree, it depends on the circumstances and the individual. Sometimes, the spirit is ready…and intervening in the natural process of dying can be horribly painful, both physically and emotionally.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        “You speak like someone who has never, ever either been in pain or have seen someone slowly (or quickly) lose themselves and die in agony. Physicians are adults with volition – it is THEIR choice as to whether they will help a patient who has asked them for help in dying. YOU can choose whether or not to avail yourself of their services. “

        Sadly, I don’t think people like Belinda are “ignorant” in that they don’t know people who have been in these situations.  It’s like the typical Republican religious nutjob perspective (not saying she is one), they know people personally who are gay, or need abortions, or suffering in extreme pain from terminal illness, but THEY JUST DON’T CARE and expect everyone to live according to their religious code.  They’ll say just get anti-gay training, just have the rape child or just suffer in mind destroying excoriating pain for as long as the doctors can keep you “alive”.  Because according to them, it’s the right thing to do and they would have their loved one suffer.

        • avatar Messy ONE says:

          I was trying to avoid saying that….. But ok. I’m with I’m with you on that.

          Generally, though, I find that her comments are not only counter to common sense, but feel like she’s just making things up on the fly. Her mantra appears to be, “If you can’t convince-em, confuse-em.”

      • avatar Belinda Joy says:


        I am a Christian. I am one of those Christians that understands that the Bible is an important book to my beliefs, and that many of the teachings in it we (Christians) pick and choose what we will hold up as justification for our beliefs. Example. The Bible has negative things to say about homosexuality, tattoos, body piercings, women working outside the home, men cutting their beards, etc. etc. etc. yet MANY Christians ignore those scriptures to accommodate for how they want to live today. I understand and accept that. I know I do the same.

        On the subject of suicide, according to the Bible that is a sin. For years I was against capital punishment because even though our government may decide a human is guilty of committing a crime and ordered to be killed. The person that has to do the killing (unless they are an Atheist) their soul will be condemned for taking a life. The same is true for a doctor (unless they are an Atheist) that takes a life.

        Beyond that, I find it quite interesting that so many people take to the internet and “whine” about how their loved one is in pain and should have their lives ended, yet they won’t do it themselves. They won’t assist their loved one in taking their life, no…better to have a doctor do it. So it’s not murder if a doctor does it but if you help a loved one…..then it is. I see it as a bunch of wimpy people that don’t want to get their hands dirty. Those that don’t want the figurative “blood on their hands”. Trust and believe if I had a loved one that was in so much pain and agony – begging to end their life – I would remind them it is a sin to end your life, but if they insisted, then they should do so. There are ways even the most immobile and incapacitated men or women can take their lives WITHOUT the aid of a doctor. So all of this talk about needing a doctor to do away with a loved one is bull. If you want to kill yourself, kill YOURSELF – YOURSELF! Just don’t take others with you, that’s all I ask.

        And for those on this thread that are referring to me and my opinions as being the work of a troll, I take that as a compliment. I recently came to the realization I have not been honest enough about my beliefs, that I have been showing too much restraint. So for you people to describe my views as being purposely controversial says that here on WOW, at least here…..I must be actually speaking my mind. Maybe it is only the other websites I blog on that I am censoring my opinions.

        To quote our president, “We must get to a place where we can disagree without being disagreeable.” I have tried to do so on this site for years in the face of others that demeaned and insulted me because of my beliefs. That was true 2 years ago and is true today based on yours and others posts. As I have said time and time again, I’m not going anywhere. You may not like me or my opinions, but that is life. You aren’t the first and won’t be the last.

        • avatar Messy ONE says:

          Your choice of religion is a personal one and does not give you the right to impose it on others. Assisted suicide is a massive issue that is going to get increasingly important and necessary as our population ages. Feel free to live in agony for as long as you want. What you may not do is force others to do the same.

          It is a lie that “anyone” can commit suicide. There is nothing an incapacitated person can do to kill themselves without the help of a physician or loved one. Even if all the doctor does is prescribe a drug that will permit the suffering person to die without pain or fear, that is assisted suicide.

          The nonsense that some people throw around that older people will be dropping like flies because of their families is a lie. Assisted suicide has been legal in many places for a good long time. None of this has happened. Deaths have NOT increased. Not even close. The fact that people seem to believe that they will is nothing more than church propaganda calculated to induce panic and hysteria.

          The Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion was also intended by the framers to guarantee freedom FROM religion. The separation of church and state in this nation has come under attack of late, but it it absolute. Worship as you please, but you will never have the right to make laws that can force so-called “Christians” to dictate what others may or may not do. Those of us who do not grovel in front of a Roman torture device don’t believe as you do, and that is their right.

          Your response to my post is typical. You insist that you can say what you want and I will tell you here and now that there are many who disagree with you, and we all have as much right to disagree as you have to pontificate. This is a message board. Debate is expected.

          • avatar snail says:

            I don’t regularly post on here, and I almost never read the comments – the main reason I did this time is to see the expected right-wing moralistic preaching that I knew would come as a result of Margo’s rational and well-reasoned response to LTR#1. I think it says a great deal about the response in at least some parts of the medical community that she and her husband – the doctor, Belinda, the one who shouldn’t get involved – are in favor of assisted suicide.

            “Suicide” by definition means the killing of one’s self. All the doctor does is assist with the mechanical means necessary to enable someone to do so. It may be as simple as terminating extreme measures, or it may come in the form of providing medication of some type that will make the process smoother, or less painful, or faster. Both my long-time partner and I have living wills and powers of attorney directing the other to help in any way if it becomes necessary. We are both in our 50’s – he has a number of severe and chronic (although not currently immediately life-threatening) medical conditions, and I am completely healthy. But we’re both prepared.

            If you feel strongly opposed to assisted suicide, don’t avail yourself of the service. Just like the other medical and societal issues to which the right-wing is opposed, however, it’s never enough for them to remain convinced that they will never do a certain thing. They have to try to ensure that nobody else can, either. Just because YOU believe something doesn’t give you the right to make ME act a certain way.

    • avatar bamabob says:

      Belinda never disappoints. After reading her comments for several months I am convinced she makes them solely to stir the pot and not out of any personal conviction. I believe the term is “troll” and she does it very well.

      • avatar joanne in jax says:

        Amen! She’s been making her grab for center stage for years on this site. I usually bypass her comments, but this latest one is too egregious for words.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        I don’t think she’s a troll.  She’s just that crazy.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        I’ve come to the conclusion that Belinda is of the school that believes that if you say something decisively, everyone ought to believe it, no matter how ridiculous it really is. It’s easy to write long, pontificating posts when you don’t have to think about the content.

        I suspect that she sells used cars.

        • avatar mmht says:

          I think your right. Her views are too black and white to be real or for her to actually believe them as she claims.

          • avatar John Lee says:

            You know many Republicans?

            Cut taxes for the rich = always good.
            No abortions in any case even rape – the famous “legitimate rape” comment by the Congressman
            Send back all illegal immigrants
            etc, etc

            Black and white thinkers definitely exist.

      • avatar Hellster says:

        I do agree with you, bamabob. But I love Belinda for highfalutin, overly mannered, faux-intelligent, grammatically tortured gems like this (both in style and substance): “Trust and believe if I had a loved one that was in so much pain and agony – begging to end their life – I would remind them it is a sin to end your life, but if they insisted, then they should do so.”

        Where do I begin? First off, “that” is never to be used when referring to a human being, and I assume (mind you, it’s a big assumption) that Belinda and her “loved ones” are human.

        Then there’s the labyrinth of “person” in the above selection. You (understood), I, their, them, your, they, and they again! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, referents are to agree in person, number, and case!

        And what a paragon of Christian charity this self-styled grande-dame sans merci is, a veritable angel of mercy, reminding those on their agonized deathbeds that suicide is a sin for which there is no forgiveness. . . but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, you know?

        Blessed is Belinda Joy; forgive her, for she knows not what she do.

        • avatar PortaPetey says:

          Ahhhh, this is all so utterly fantastic.

          I have long been a Margo reader, but I confess I have for months been skimming through the letters as quickly as possible so that I can scroll down and see what kind of imperious, condescending, contemptuous, hateful bile the Beast Known as Belinda Joy 666 has vomited forth in response to real people with real problems. Such a horrid, pretentious, ostentatiously moralistic scold is a rare gem indeed, right down to the Glamour Shots™ photo with the giant ring of pearls. Often, I have almost been horrified and revolted enough to log in and post a reply to her loathsome, venomous, grandiloquent decrees, but I have always managed to remind myself of the old saying…”when you fight with pigs…”

          I am overjoyed to finally see this gutternsnipe-turned-faux-bourgeouse-harridan get a really thorough thumping in the comments. My god, she is awful.

    • avatar Eve Dallas says:

      First and foremost, you are absolutely entitled to your opinion. In my humble opinion, your comments here seem to me to be very close-minded. We release pets from severe pain in a very gentle and humane way surrounded by love . . . why should a person get any less respect and caring? I personally feel that if I were in such severe pain, or completely unable to function and/or unaware of my surroundings, I’d pray that my family would have the strength to release me; to graduate from Earth School, and not see me suffer.

      As for LW#2, there’s a lot we don’t know about this situation. A funeral is to be there to support the grieving family members. Announcing a pregnancy in that situation seems to me to be very poor taste. From this perspective, Ben and Kay are very shallow, very selfish people. I hope that becoming parents will show them just how much people sacrifice for their kids, and turn them into kinder, people with some degree of decorum, or they are going to raise an entitled child, exactly as they are, and be writing to Margo in 20 years with similar questions.

    • avatar D says:

      I agree with you on the first letter.

      As for the second letter, I think that the pregnancy announcement should have been postponed. There is no need for everyone to know at the same time. I do agree that asking for money and cutting ties with her parents may have nothing to do with each other. I do think that if we asked “Ben” and “Kay” their side of the story, it would go a bit differently and there would be some pent up feelings that would come out.

      Just because someone feels a certain way about physician-assisted suicide does not make them a Republican right-wing nut job. I feel as she does and I am far from a Republican right-wing nut job.

      Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips, requiescat in pace.

    • avatar kenswmn says:

      ARE YOU NUTS? What self centered planet do you live on? All I read is that this couple thinks they should be the utmost importance. The parents were smart in mentioning the wrong time to be mentioning pregnancy. The young couple should have been smart enough to realize it! Where do they get off asking the parents for money???? If they are old enough to have a baby they should be old enough to support themselves. Ohhh that is just rich to try and keep the child away from the grandparents. It is always thought that a child can use as much love as can be given. Those people are SELFISH! they do not deserve a child.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I agree with Margo.

    L #2: Wanting grandparents’ visiting rights is as much as I’d want to do with that situation (easy for me to say, I know). Makes me wonder whether it’s Ben or Kay as *the* initiator of all this nonsense, and the other is weak-minded enough to give/feed into it. Takes all kinds.

  8. avatar judgingamy says:

    Regarding grandparents rights- I believe the laws vary by state, but I think in most, like three conditions have to be true in order to get any rights. I know one of the conditions is the grandparents have to prove that they were an active presence in the child’s life and the child will suffer if the grandparents are cut out. I don’t remember what the other two are. But anyways, since they have not yet even met the baby, and the baby is not old enough to be affected by their absence, I would say they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any kind of rights, and filing a lawsuit will only further alienate their son and destroy any chance of them ever meeting that baby.

    If they are so desperate to be a part of the child’s life, the only thing they can do is eat major crow, apologize for whatever they did to offend the parents, and probably offer them money. It’s sad what adult children will do, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve heard of a parent using their child to squeeze money or favors out of their own parents. My old boyfriend had a sister who got pregnant while studying abroad. After finding out she was pregnant, she dropped out of school and was just gallivanting around Europe on her father’s dime. When he would call her out on it, she basically said, if you want your granddaughter to eat, you better keep paying the bills and stop hassling me. She got a years’ worth of international living out of him before he finally called her bluff. She moved home and has been resentful ever since.

    • avatar mmht says:

      I think you are correct about the grandparents rights. My parents got grandparents rights put into my sister and former b-i-l’s divorce settlement mainly b/c my sister moved out of state and had no contact with her son while he was being raised by his father. But, my nephew was 2 y.o. at the time and my parents had an established relationship with him. If they had never met him in the first place or if my sister had not basically abandoned my nephew, I don’t know if they would have been able to do that. A lot of people don’t understand that the point of grandparent’s rights is not to start a relationship but to ensure that a relationship is not severed. Too many people think that just b/c they share DNA with a child they have rights over that child. Sorry, you don’t unless it is special circumstances. The law is there to ensure to do what is right by the child and forcing a relationship that the parents don’t feel is acceptable does not fall under what is right for the child.

      • avatar duranimal says:

        Correct- in order to sue for grandparent’s rights there has to be an established relationship with the child, and generally it’s cases where there’s a divorce and the former DIL/SIL is keeping the grandchild from the other side of the family. It doesn’t apply to forcing your married daughter or son to let you meet your new grandchild.

        • avatar judgingamy says:

          Right- the law is for the benefit of the child, not the grandparents. The idea is to keep things status quo for a child who may be going through life changes. I am sure the courts would find it rather disruptive to force a child to spend time with people he or she has never met, and who has a hostile relationship with his or her parents.

  9. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1) Such a beautifully stated response by Margo.

    LW2)   Be grateful that your values are not in sync with theirs. I admire your husband for confronting Ben immediately over the tasteless timing on announcing the pregnancy. As for suing for grandparent rights, I’d advise against it. Let the clods seclude themselves with their poopy-drooly kid until they realize they’ve cut off their noses despite their faces. They’ll likely come around again when they want something … like money for day-care or free babysitting. Hopefully your other son and Carol will have children to ease your pain of loss. 


  10. avatar Michelles11 says:

    I have, for the last 18 months, worked as a caregiver to seniors in their homes. I meet their families and loved ones and get to know them very well. There are some who will go to any length to prolong their lives and some that are content to go whenever they go. I have seen my own father on life-support and grandparents in nursing homes. I have decided that while life is precious and can be joyful, when I am old and in frail health, I will NOT have my family go to extreme measures to prolong my life. I have seen families spend hours upon hours tending to the needs of their loved ones, accuse doctors of malpractice, fight with each other…and sometimes I look at the person in question and think “When I am 82 years old, bed-ridden with asthma, diabetes, and kidney failure…I want to go in peace”. I’m not advocating suicide, but there is such a thing as dying with dignity. Sometimes, the body is ready to shut down and the spirit is tired. Sometimes, the relatives are the ones who are not ready for the loved one to go, but that’s selfish, and I’ve seen people hang on to life because the people around them beg them to stay. It’s sad, and all they remember is the last few weeks of running around and emergencies and doctors and suffering. I don’t think a doctor wants to prolong the suffering of a person who is ready to let go. I’d rather my end be peaceful and without drama. Just my humble opinion.

  11. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: I understand the stance people take on for unborn children, but when an adult is enduring great suffering then who are we to influence a decision that affects no one? Given appropriate guidelines (major key), physicians should be allowed legally to assist in a comfortably end or someone. Furthermore, I will tell you as an RN and wife of a hospital based physician that physicians and nurses deal daily with decisions on whether to let someone die or go to the ends of the Earth to save them. Assisted suicide happens daily, but under the auspice of palliative care. I believe that those against assisted death are allowing their religious beliefs to outweigh their logical & humane thinking. AS long as there are rules in place to prevent abuse/misuse then who are we to deny one their basic right to life (or death)?

  12. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW2: Que sara, sara. They will be back when their need for money or sitters outweighs those deep seated values they claim they have -this week. Send a gift on baby’s birthday & have no other contact initiated by you. Just keep in mind that these type of people will allow you back in & then likely throw you out again when they need emotional ammunition to satisfy their needs. Pray the child makes it to adulthood unscathed.

  13. avatar Artemesia says:

    There is no such thing as ‘grandparent’s rights’ for someone who has never even met the grandchild. There are some rare circumstances e.g. a grandparents has raised a grandchild who is then taken back by a child and the parents excluded where a case has been made. But grandparents don’t have rights by relationship. Nor should they. The parents have a right to decide who is involved with their children — these parents are jerks apparently — but that doesn’t give the LW’s husband a right to meddle in their family.

    You raised this man. You have to live with who he is. Not a happy outcome but not one that carries with it the legal right to disrupt his family. And yes, of course they were insensitive clods to hijack the funeral lunch.

    • avatar mac13 says:

      Sadly, there is just such a thing. At least in my state. In the instance of the death of a child, the grandparents can sue and get visitation. Unless they are deemed a danger. Doesn’t matter if they have never seen or spoke to that grandchild. Has happened in my own family.

      • avatar judgingamy says:

        By death of a child, I assume you mean death of the parent of the child? Like, if a woman with children dies, her parents can sue their grandchildren’s father for visitation? I haven’t heard that, but either way, that won’t help LW in this case. All LW’s husband is going to accomplish with this lawsuit is pissing off his son even more. He’s better off either just playing nice and letting his son call the shots, or cutting his losses and losing hope of ever having a relationship with his grandchild.

  14. avatar Artemesia says:

    there is no such thing as palliative care for many painful and degrading ailments. I am made hideously nauseated by opiates even codeine. After the second dose I am stretched out on the bathroom floor retching. Opiates are the only effective treatment for the severe pain of cancer. I curse the people who think I should have to die in agony if this should come to me.

    My only hesitation about legalizing assisted suicide is that in the US we do not care for people. The medical industry is entirely oriented to profit not care and one of the effects for almost everyone who is not super rich is that a serious illness bankrupts the family — even those with good insurance face serious financial impact. If we have legal suicide the country will feel comfortable not providing care for those who can’t afford it — they have an alternative just as we don’t provide care for the mentally ill now that we can no longer compel it.

    • avatar jennaA says:

      You are absolutely right when you say that caring for the individual is not done in this country. There is so little humanity left in healthcare. The size of the country seems to mirror the size of the apathy. Thank you for your input and giving me some more points to ponder. You have my respect as well as my sympathies.
      Best wishes to you!

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      If you both feel this way, please find a different doctor. There are many out there who do care.
      I agree that our insurance has gone to pot. Dating myself. In 1991, I had full coverage with no co-pays or deductibles (in plan) with an HMO for $20/month. Now we pay $600/month & end up paying $2-3K out of pocket & we have no health issues. $10,ooo for maintenance health care! Just the routine mammo, coloscopy, & 4 elementary age kids who rarely see their doc because we ((MD&RN) can order labs, interpret & prescribe antibiotics ourselves. THis biggest shame is we are employed by a hospital. I’d hate to know how much non-medical people are paying.

  15. avatar zz says:

    The assisted suicide letter really hit home.  My former husband (married 28 years, divorced for 12) recently took his own life as a way to end the excruciating pain he was in caused by a myriad of illnesses and organ shut down.  He chose not to seek medical care nor to take medications other than aspirin.  Had assisted suicide been available, that might have made his death more acceptable to the masses.  As it is, his children will have to live with the horrible stigma attached to suicide, but in their hearts they know that their father waited until life was simply completely unbearable.  May God rest his soul.  And, may the rest of us figure out a way to allow people the choice to die with dignity.   

  16. avatar jennaA says:

    LW1: This is a topic I struggle with, too. Considering the two 45-year-old deaf twins who sought this “solution” earlier this week because they were going blind, it’s been a topic of conversation at my house. Margo handled this well.

    LW2: This actually sounds like my brother and SIL. They, too, asked family members for money and then cut them off (then they went so far as to say they never wanted anything from us again). Though grandchildren are now in the equation, sometimes it’s safer for one’s personal sanity to burn that bridge and move on. Court mandated visitation probably won’t be a good solution. In my case (and I’m sure theirs now, too) the parents have told the children how terrible and “hateful” we all are. Not a healthy situation for anyone.  

  17. avatar Allaroundtheworld says:

    The right to live the right to die, it’s tricky any way you look at it. For my self, I will probably be going to
    Belgium to end my own life. I have a terminal illness that will never be cured and I have come to terms with that. I have many secondary illnesses either from the primary disease or just from the 15 to 20 different medications that I have to take daily. I think the worst is the PAIN!!!!  Some days or good, some or worst, but right now I live for the moment and am doing fine, but when that day comes where I can’t, I want to be the one who makes the decision, not a group of doctors who are just trying to continuing to make me live longer so they can keep on making money off of me.  My whole family knows this an also agrees. This has nothing to do with religion, but about quality of life not quantiy of life. I’ve donated my time in senior centers and hospic centers and have heared people beg for their family to just let them die and to help them die. Instead, we pump them full of drugs to dull the senses away and all thats left is a dull eyed non person who doesn’t know their left hand from their right.  I hope I don’t sound hateful or come across as incompassionate because I’ve very compassionated. And if there is any sliver of hope for a cure or a better quality of life, I’m all for it.  But I do not believe it is the goverment choice to come between my choice in how I live or die. That is between me and my family and my doctor.  

  18. avatar francophile1962 says:

    I confess I haven’t read through all of the comments, so my apologies if I’m hitting on something that’s already been addressed. There is a difference between LIVING and SURVIVING. Luckily, in my family, we are all of the same mind about which is which, and there are to be no “extraordinary measures” for any of us should the time come. The Hippocratic Oath came about long before all of the modern means to keep a person “surviving” with grossly artificial measures, and I’m guessing that had the sage physicians of that time been able to foresee the future, there may have been a little caveat about “When your life totally sucks and there is no other outcome other than infinite pain and suffering, we can help you transition to a place of peace.” (Not sure how you’d say that in Greek or Latin, but there you have it).

  19. avatar Messy ONE says:

    Margo, please accept my condolences on the loss of your aunt.

  20. avatar Erika Muller says:

    Dear Margo,

    Please accept my deepest sympathies and condolences on the passing of your aunt. She was so loved and she and your mother made such a difference in my life. When I was young, I couldn’t talk to my parents about much but I learned what made a good person by reading your mom’s column and your aunt’s column.


  21. avatar Blurgle says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your aunt. Please accept my condolences.

  22. avatar Annie H says:

    Dear Margo;

    Please accept my sincerest condolences on the loss of your Aunt.  As with your dear mother, the world will feel the loss of your Aunt. 


  23. avatar Susan JH says:

    Margo, I am so sorry to hear about the death of your aunt.  Condolences to you and your family. 

  24. avatar flyonthewall says:

    I just heard the news. Condolences to you Margo on the passing of your Aunt. Sending you and your family love and well wishes.

  25. avatar Rho says:

    Please accept my condolences for the passing of your aunt, so sorry.

  26. avatar D C says:

    Dear Margo — so sorry for your loss.  For those of us who grew up with her indirect guidance, it is a shared loss to be sure. 

  27. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Dear Margo – My heartfelt condolences………

  28. avatar Frau Quink says:

    Concerning Ltr. # 2:

    Save your money for children in your neighborhood elementary school who would love to have you as a substitute grand parent. They will appreciate you very much. What good will it do if you force visitation rights? It might make a bad situation even worse……

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      The son and daughter-in-law are acting like a couple of self-centered jerks. Begging for money and then pouting like a kid that doesn’t want to share a toy only prove their immaturity. They won’t behave like grownups until they figure it out for themselves.

      In this case, nothing would be gained from fighting this out in court, except to give “Ben” and his wife something more to whine about. No one can make an adult to anything they don’t want to do, and this cuts both ways. The LW can’t “make” her son act like a grownup, but she CAN make it clear that she won’t tolerate being treated badly by him.

  29. avatar sdpooh says:

    To Margo.  I just read of your aunt’s passing.  (for the younger crowd, her aunt was “Dear Abby”).  My condolences to you, your cousins and the entire family.  Both ladies brought good sensible solutions to generations of readers and I know that you and your cousin will continue what your dear mothers started.   

  30. avatar Jan Hall says:

    All my family lives in Holland, where euthanasia is allowed and accepted. A few months ago, an old (mid 90’s) distant relative chose to die. She had many medical problems, then broke her hip, and she decided she’d had enough. If I remember correctly, two doctors, including her family physician, had to independently agree that she met the criteria for euthanasia, then there was a short waiting period, after which she died peacefully in the presence of her family.

    My mother died in Holland from Alzheimer’s, but since we had never discussed how she wanted to die, I would never have suggested it to the doctor, nor would he have done it.

    I want to be able to make that same decision, not with an overdose of pills, which I might not keep down, not with a bullet to my head, which might make the situation worse, but with an injection. I always said I’d take myself to the vet and be euthanized the way my cats were.


    Margo – your aunt was a very special woman, she’ll be missed by many of us, and some of her columns and advice will live forever. My condolences to you and your family.

  31. avatar R Scott says:

    Margo, I agree with everything you said regarding the first letter. Nicely stated.

    My condolences on the loss of your aunt. She and your mother will be fondly remembered. They are American Icons.


  32. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – Either you managed to raise a real whack job or there’s more to the story. I actually think it’s a little of both.

  33. avatar Anais P says:

    Dear Margo: So sorry to hear about your aunt’s passing. Now that both she and your mother are gone, it is truly the end of an era. May you and your cousin continue their legacies.

  34. avatar Humama says:

    Dear Margo,
    Please accept my condolences on the passing of your beloved aunt. She and your mother unleashed their unique talents on the world and made it more compassionate and understanding about a myriad of social issues. I know these special ladies now look down upon you and your cousins with pride as you carry into a new millennium with advice as only you can dispense it. Bless you all.

  35. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Margo — Please add my condolences on the passing of your aunt, the original Dear Abby. I grew up reading Ann Landers in the morning Indianapolis Star and Dear Abby in the afternoon Indianapolis Times. My mother was choosy about what I read, but never objected to those spicy slices of life.

  36. avatar Visser1 says:

    When an illness robs you of all the things you enjoy, you are no longer living you are just alive. My work involves palliative treatments for many terminally ill patients. I think that any treatment that improves a persons quality of life is great, provided they have the desire to pursue it. When overzealous family cannot let someone go they prolong suffering. Endless treatments to prolong a painful life are pointless, and while they may help family cope with feeling of futility they seldom help the patient. As many others have already stated some diseases don’t respond to pain medication and some people have terrible reactions to it. Death with dignity and without pain shouldn’t be controversial, it should be a right.

  37. avatar Janet66 says:

    Margo – sincere condolences. Your aunt was a true treasure.

  38. avatar Janet66 says:


    Unfortunately, I know people like the LW’s son and wife. There’s a word for their affliction: NARCISSISM.
    Totally inappropriate and insenstive to announce a pregnancy at a funeral. As for being cut off from your new grandchild, I really wish people who are not lawyers would refrain from broadcasting bad advice. If you want access, get an appointment with a good lawyer specialized in family law and find out what your chances are of winning in Court. The grounds for access will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but generally speaking, it’s about the best interests of the child, not whether you already have a bond established unlesss that’s how the Court in a particular jurisdiction interprets “best interests.”

     If you don’t think your son is likely to come around in the next year or two – or ever – you really have nothing – but money – to lose.   I’d spend the $300 for a legal consultation and find out what your options are, think about things and then make your decision.

  39. avatar Lym BO says:

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to declare a holiday on your mom & aunt’s birthday?! They truly touched so many lives. Like many have said above, their responses to letters were solid truth with many lessons about life for many of us. I began to read Dear Abby daily when I was 9 or 10 (Ann Landers wasn’t carried in our little paper),. I doubt I ever missed a column until I went to college. You can bet I picked it back up when I got my own place & paper. 🙂
    Deepest condolences to the whole Friedman clan!

  40. avatar Lym BO says:

    I’ve read their bio before, but I never noticed that one twin was Pauline Esther & the other Esther Pauline. I also never knew that She went by the pen name “Abigail,” after the Old Testament prophetess from the Book of Samuel: Then David said to Abigail … ‘Blessed is your advice and blessed are you.[2] “Van Buren” was used after the president, Martin Van Buren.[9]

  41. avatar Ghostwheel says:

    RE: LW2
    So I must be the only person here with a MIL who projects her issues on everyone else? Case in point, I made what SHE considered a faux pas at a gathering (talking with a mother about her child’s birthmark-don’t remember who brought it up, but she had no problem with our conversation). No one else noticed or cared. Later MIL goes on and on about how I insulted the mother of the child with the birthmark (?) by talking about it and how hurt the mother was, etc. Not being one to let stuff fester, I call up the mother to apologize if I insulted her, and lo and behold, she says “What? I wasn’t insulted. We were just talking about things that ARE.”

    See, MIL was insulted, no one else cared and she couldn’t stand it that no one else cared. SHE was embarrassed about the child having a birthmark, so she had to project the issue to someone else. She does this all the time. So I take LW2s complaint with a grain of salt. In my family, announcing a pregnancy at a funeral would be cause for joy, one life ends, another begins, as it should be. And this same feeling applies to everyone in Spousey’s family, with the exception of MIL. So the rest of us should not get our small amount of joy at a funeral because of one person? Doesn’t make sense to me. Your mileage may vary, but I took LW2 as a self righteous busybody who had to find some kind of fault everyone could get on board with (they asked me for money, then cut me out of their life, boo, hoo). Just me projecting, probably.

  42. avatar Brooke Schubert says:

    LW#1 is a good reminder to make sure you have a lliving will and talk to your family about what you want in case you are unable to do so if something terrible happens.  I’m only 34 but I’ve had a living will since I had a health scare when I was 20.  I’ve specified in my living will that I am DNR do NOT want to be kept alive by artificial means, and my sister (who is my health care power of attorney) and I have had heart to heart talks and I know that she’ll do everything she can to make sure I can die as I wish if the circumstances we discussed arise.

    I think the best part of the right to die laws are the comfort it gives patients.  Sometimes just knowing that death is an option if the pain gets to be too much can ease the stress on someone who has their health going downhill.

  43. avatar A R says:

    LW1: Although I’m staunchly in the Right to Die camp (sorry Belinda J.), I do want to mention that some of the nasty attacks on Belinda J’s beliefs really disappoint me. Beliefs are beliefs whether they stem from religion, philosophy, random choice, or personal experience.

    For those who write so hatefully here, you want respect for your position? Show it to others in turn. You should know by now that there is not one, single set of values that is consistently shared by any group or groups of people.

    In other words, one can be pro-right-to-die, pro-choice, pro-gun, white, female, Christian, pro-marriage equality, and Republican all in one shot. Quit trying to create a single bundle of beliefs and default qualities to assign to those who disagree with you. (Because goodness knows if they don’t agree with YOU, they must be ___, ____, ___, and ___ by default) Eye roll.

    To quote a wise, old buddy, “Just because you don’t agree with me, doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.”

    • avatar OrlGal says:

      I certainly agree. And often people’s belief system is rooted in things they don’t even understand themselves. Otherwise, how to explain someone who is against abortion, yet FOR the death penalty?

      Or someone that has been married multiple times, yet thinks gay marriage is somehow a “threat to the family.”

      People hold illogical and inconsistent views all the time. That’s OK. Where it is not OK is when you try to force your belief system on others or insult them for believing differently.

      We live in a diverse society and trying to force everyone to be “the same” is both impossible and exhausting.

    • avatar Susan JH says:

      Well said, AR.  Ganging up on someone just because they don’t share your beliefs (or for any other reason) is called bullying, and it is an ugly and destructive thing.  And by the way, I am all of those things that come behind your “in other words”, so you are right — one can be all of those things.  I am a lot of other things that might be considered to be contradictory in the same person, but c’est la vie.

  44. avatar OrlGal says:

    LW1 – I agree that folks should have the right to end their life, though I wonder about how to implement a way to insure the reason is justified, and a way that doesn’t put up a barrier for the poor.

    LW2 – I think there is so little info to go on here that one can’t form an opinion. It’s possible that these kids are as described, but equally possible the parents are leaving a lot out and these kids are doing the right thing. I am also torn on funeral announcement, would it have made a difference if they had made an touching speech about the deceased, announced the pregnancy and included that, in honor of the departed they wished to have “sisters” blessing in naming their child after her dead mother? In other words, I’m not sure even this one is black and white.

    Beyond that though, we should all realize that people perceive what is polite. And rude, differently. The Father didn’t need to “correct” them at all, as the situation had already happened and doing so served no purpose other than to make them feel bad. Yes, perhaps this sons personality is more flamboyant and self centered than parents like, but perhaps they helped create that because all his life they showed favoritism to the other sibling. Sometimes those “types” of personalities develop as a reaction to being deprived of love and attention. We all know that some parents play the favoritism game with their children from an early age, and there are few things more damaging to a child’s psyche.