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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am forwarding this letter to you from my mother, who recently died from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). She wrote it almost one year before her death, when she was diagnosed with this terminal disease. She left it for us to send to you because she wanted people who are against issues such as assisted suicide to feel what she was going through. She asked for open-mindedness and understanding. Her words are better than any of ours, for only she truly knew what she had to face. -- KRISTIN BULL, MADISON, WIS.

DEAR KRISTIN: Please accept my sympathy at this sad time. Your mother makes a powerful argument for her point of view:

DEAR ABBY: Have you ever faced death with someone you dearly loved? Have you watched a loved one go through excruciating pain or helpless and hopeless suffering, because it's obvious the end is near?

I would like to spare my husband, daughters, parents, family and friends, as well as myself. I'm not so much scared to leave this life as I am of the journey that's in store for me. After being diagnosed with ALS, I have prayed for the strength to go with dignity. How can one be dignified while struggling with breathing, swallowing and all other muscular functions of the body?

I would love to have a Dr. Kevorkian with me to ease the way. What the world needs are more Dr. Kevorkians! I wish people would allow some flexibility in their thoughts and actions. I am considering being filmed at the end; it would be far more graphic than a letter. -- HELEN BULL, MADISON, WIS.

DEAR KRISTIN AND DEAR READERS: The latest acquittal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian by a jury in Michigan, coupled with a recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which held that the laws against assisting a suicide are unconstitutional, focuses attention on the issue of how a terminally ill patient can request and receive physician aid-in-dying rather than accepting home care or hospice.

The Hemlock Society USA advocates legalization of physician aid-in-dying for competent, terminally ill patients should they choose this method of ending their lives. In order to further patients' rights in this area, the Hemlock Society USA is working for the enactment of laws in each state that clearly and succinctly set forth the guidelines for voluntary aid-in-dying.

For more information and to receive two helpful booklets, "Patients' Rights and Resources" and "A Letter to My Physician," as well as membership information, please write to: The Hemlock Society, P.O. Box 101810, Denver, Colo. 80250.

DEAR ABBY: I am a steady reader of your column, which I really enjoy, but I am puzzled by one thing. A lot of letters start with: "Recently I read in your column," etc., or you will say, "Yesterday I published a letter from 'The Grandparents,'" etc. Well, not in my newspaper you didn't.

Abby, does each paper sort of do its own thing with your column or what? I read you in The Asheville Citizen-Times in North Carolina. Thank you for answering this. -- CHRISTEL FRITZCHING, LITTLE SWITZERLAND, N.C.

DEAR CHRISTEL FRITZCHING: Yes, each newspaper sort of "does its own thing." If a paper is short of space, it may drop a letter, then run it at a later date when space is available.

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