Write a Letter to the Editor
Writing letters to the editor is a great way to help Compassion & Choices. They are one of the best ways to help educate people in your community about aid in dying and our work. The letters to the editors page is one of the most widely read sections of the newspaper. They can state our most convincing message points. Unlike advertisements, they cost us nothing, and because they reflect the opinion of the community, they carry more authority.
You can congratulate someone for doing the right thing or point out why you disagree with an opinion. A well-written, timely letter can help shift public opinion and influence policy.
Letters to the Editor (LTE) Guidelines
If you’re responding to something else that has been printed, send your letter in as soon as possible. Letters received within a week of the piece they reference are more likely to be published.
If you are responding to a negative article, editorial or another letter, avoid repeating their negatives. Just touch on their point and go with your own positive message. Your letter should stand on its own (if you’re responding to something previously published, not all readers will have read the original story).
Keep your letter short and concise. A good rule of thumb is 200 words or less, and some papers may limit letters to even less. Even if the paper doesn’t set a limit, keep it short. Shorter letters are more likely to be published and have a greater chance of being read.
To get the most from your limited words, organize your thoughts. What one to three messages do you want to express in your letter? (A list of our strongest message points is below.) Are you writing to express an opinion or to give information? Jot down your messages before you write. Keep it simple.
- Open your letter with a strong statement. Your letter will more likely be published if you reference a previously published article, such as “In response to your article ” Patient Talks About End-of-Life Choice, …”
- Make your point in two or three simple sentences. Whenever possible, include a personal connection (“As a nurse, I understand . . .” or “At the end of my mother’s life . . .”).
- Close with a thought for readers to remember. Consider the central point you want people to take away.
You can let readers know about Compassion & Choices by mentioning us in your letter. Mention our website (compassionandchoices.org) or our toll-free number 800 247 7421.
Include your full name, address and phone number at the end of the letter. Editors frequently call for confirmation before publishing letters. Newspapers don’t print these details, but they want to know real people like yourself are writing them.
Many newspapers now accept letters to the editor by email as well as by mail. Be sure to send us a copy of your letter or email! If you send a letter to the editor by postal mail or fax, don’t forget to sign it. Many newspapers will not publish a letter without a signature.
LTE Message Points
These are the most important, and most convincing points to make to support the importance of access to aid in dying.
- No one should have to suffer at the end of life. Many do, even with the best care and pain management.
- People need a full range of end-of-life choices, including the right to request and obtain life-ending medication.
- Americans are free to choose how they live – and when the time comes, how they die. This private, personal decision belongs to all Americans – free from government interference.
- This personal choice should be left to the patient, their family and their doctor. And it should be guided by medical standards, not the whims of politicians.
- If I have a terminal illness, I want to be able to talk to my doctor about all my choices: treatment options, comfort care and aid in dying.
- Support for end-of-life choice is consistently strong – in red states, in blue states, across demographic groups and religions; this strong support has held steady for two decades.
- Leading national, professional medical associations support aid in dying because it empowers physicians to respect their patients’ wishes.
- Knowing they have this option gives people peace of mind.
- In Oregon’s 15-year experience, the practice of aid in dying has worked as intended, with none of the problems opponents predicted.
- There is an established medical practice standard for aid in dying: the patient must be a terminally ill, mentally competent adult. They must self-administer any prescribed life-ending medication.