Autumn 2010
Letters to the Editor

Our readers weigh in on matters of birth and death

A Difficult Truth
I sincerely appreciated the summer cover story, “Parents – at Last!” by Marcia Kaye. In particular, I liked the highlighted box, “The Age Barrier,” which stated that even with the best technology most women over 40 have little chance of getting pregnant. I went through five years of unsuccessful fertility treatment from ages 39 to 43. Several tens of thousands of dollars later, I feel that more should be done to tell older women about their “actual” chance of becoming pregnant. Kudos for stating the obvious!

Lynn Lavallée

Diverse Families
I noticed that the cover illustration for the article “Parents – at Last!” did not include queer families. I hope that, in the future, U of T Magazine can take a more inclusive perspective, especially when dealing with an issue that affects basically all queer families.

Zach Witte
Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance

Life and Death
Your item on Wayne Sumner’s enlightened approach to euthanasia was most interesting (“Ending It All,” Summer 2010). It is strange that in Canada suicide is not illegal – not even the attempted kind – but helping someone to perform that very same not-illegal act is. People who desperately wish to die are usually not dissuaded by even their most caring friends and relatives. The state is not our friend; nor did it give birth to us. It should not be able to say to its citizens that they must cling to life whatever the circumstances. It can insist that we not hurt other people, of course. But it shouldn’t play a role in keeping us alive if we choose, of our own free will and with a clear mind, to die.

Ethicist Margaret Somerville worries that euthanasia implies a lack of respect for “important societal values.” On the contrary, euthanasia affirms these values by supporting the integrity of individual choice on an
essential issue.

Geoff Rytell
BEd 1975 OISE

The Right to Die
Thank you for publishing “Ending it All.” The Right to Die movement has grown from one tiny American group, The Hemlock Society, to organizations in more than 40 countries and an international federation. There are now laws permitting assisted suicide in at least six countries and one American state.

So far, only Switzerland allows non-residents to come for assistance. Two excellent feature-length films have
recorded the full journey from decision to final action: The Suicide Tourist and A Short Stay in Switzerland. Both programs are intensely honest and deeply moving, showing the support of spouse and children. There is absolutely no evidence to support the “slippery slope” argument. On the contrary, there are now fewer messy, sudden and hurtful (to relatives) suicide attempts where a doctor’s assistance is legal.

I joined the Hemlock Society at the age of 30. My opinion was considered weird at that time. I am now 77. Each year I see more and more public discussion of the right to die, and polls show a two-thirds majority of Canadians support permissive legislation.

John Alan Lee
BA 1956 UC
Profess or Emeritus , U of T

The Stuff of Lives
One of the things I find frustrating about U of T Magazine is its unremitting interest in success. Why not focus more on student, alumni and faculty failure? I understand the donor-relations imperative and the need always to highlight optimism and accomplishment. But stories on blind alleys, mistakes, missed opportunities and errors of all sorts would be welcome and entertaining. These, much more than achievement, are often the stuff of our lives.

Gideon Forman

Trampling Rights
Given the evidence we have from the way the police handled the lawful demonstrations at the G20 Summit in June, it would seem fair to conclude that Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair (profiled in the Spring 2010 issue) wants to “break from the past” by arresting and beating dissenters and anyone who may happen to be in a given area, including children, denying civil liberties and free speech and deceiving and intimidating citizens
through the use of non-existent laws. Blair is quoted in the article as saying that Toronto’s safety “is not something we should take for granted.” We didn’t know what he had in mind.

Karyn Callaghan
MEd 2001
Hamilton, Ontario

The Problem with Air Travel
In the Summer 2010 issue, there are six fascinating pages on the commendable efforts to make the University of Toronto greener and more sustainable (“Blue and White and Green All Over,” p. 34).

Ironically, the two pages immediately preceding them advertise the Alumni World Travel Program for 2011. While I understand the appeal of these amazing packages, I see them much differently than I used to.

The environmentalist and writer George Monbiot, among others, has stated that air travel, as we have come to take it for granted, is incompatible with a sustainable future. Jetliners burn massive amounts of fuel and generate significant greenhouse gases. Anyone who is serious about sustainability and about trying to reduce his or her environmental footprint must surely reassess whether flying for pleasure is acceptable in this day and age. Whatever the educational and cultural value of these trips, they are essentially holidays for the privileged and are in no way essential.

Will the university extend its growing environmental awareness to a more responsible view of its alumni travel
program, I wonder?

David Beattie
BASc 1968
Richmond Hill, Ontario

The article “Blue and White and Green All Over” (Summer 2010) stated that the Campus Agriculture Project is growing food near Robarts Library to test it for pollutants. Although this group was involved in selecting the plot, the research is being conducted by Prof. Clare Wiseman, of the Centre for Environment, in collaboration with FoodShare. U of T Magazine regrets the error.

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