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Birth injury fund is a good idea [Letter]

National Institutes of Health

The article, "Birth injury fund sought" (Feb. 9), brought back memories of a fight my husband, Dr. John M. Freeman, waged from 1985 until his death on January 3. As chair of a National Institutes of Health committee to determine prenatal and perinatal factors associated with brain disorders, John was thrown into efforts to define the causes of mental retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

The first sentence of the committee's 1985 report stated "much of what we 'know' about the prenatal and perinatal causes" of these disorders "should no longer be taught." For example, John later wrote, it has become increasingly clear that we do not know the cause of most children's cerebral palsy. New evidence, he said, indicates that infections during pregnancy may account for much of what had been blamed on preventable asphyxia. He did not believe that "injuries" at the time of birth were a primary cause.

With the help of our son, attorney Andrew D. Freeman, John wrote several health policy articles advocating "no-fault birth-related neurologic injury compensation." He believed that all families burdened with children with these conditions should receive aid, not just those who won the "malpractice lottery." He also became involved in efforts to develop no-fault fund bills in several states, including North Carolina, New York and Maryland where bills were introduced in 1986, 1987 and 2005.

As I recall, the 2005 bill was doomed when its opponents brought nurses and lawyers from Virginia to testify against it, claiming that Virginia's no-fault bill prevented families from receiving aid they were due. John believed that neither the Virginia nor Florida bills achieved their intent for predictable reasons related to their restrictive language.

Del. Dan Morhaim deserves much credit for reopening the battle to find a solution to the current situation which benefits a few patients and their attorneys while ignoring the many families requiring and deserving assistance.

Elaine Freeman, Ruxton

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