ObligationsThe editorial staff of The Sun and...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Obligations

The editorial staff of The Sun and its syndicated Opinion * Commentary contributors have enthusiastically supported the administration's proposal to increase income taxes on Social Security payments.

I wonder whether you, and they, would be equally enthusiastic if a private corporation, in order to produce more attractive operating results, were to unilaterally repudiate its pension obligations to long-service employees, some of whom had contributed to the scheme for over half a century.

You, and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, would boil with indignation and denounce the action as unprincipled -- justifiably so.

It is no less unprincipled when it is perpetrated by the federal government. But too many of your contributors grew up in the 1960s and have become so habituated to being subsidized by your parents' generation that it has become an addiction.

It would be nice if they could go cold turkey on this particular addiction; but that would require strength of character and is probably too much to hope for.

Robert L. Taylor

Timonium

Keep Out of It

Since the end of the Cold War three years ago and the demise of Communist oppression in Eastern Europe, those people have been ecstatic in their celebration of new- found freedom.

Apparently, they wanted to exercise their freedom to engage in civil war, ethnic cleansing, destruction of their cities, rape and other atrocities. The annual survey by Jane's Defense Weekly identified "26 wars or insurrections, 23 areas of potential conflict and 24 areas of tension, which identifies this as the most dangerous decade of the century."

The U.S. has used its armed forces, natural resources and industrial might to bail Europe out of its conflicts and restore peace.

The U.S. provided massive aid at the end of World War II by means of the Marshall Plan in order that Europe could survive and rebuild itself.

The Europeans have engaged in religious and ethnic wars since the beginning of time and will continue until the final battle of Armageddon.

This time, despite the Clinton administration's desire to commit U.S. troops to restore order in the former Yugoslavia, I say let the Yugoslavians and any others settle their problems without our involvement.

Keep our armed forces out of it.

James E. Haines

Baltimore

2 Columns

I enjoyed Tim Baker's Feb. 14 column, "A Second First Date." It was a cute, incisive piece about a problem many couples have: living together. Their differences come between them. He advocates a second courtship, another proposal, a reuniting. Couples should work it out; they should try to stay together. I got warm feelings and equally brief memory floods.

I also read Hal Piper's Feb. 14 column, "End of History." I was not impressed to learn that active wars worldwide are down for the last five years from 36 to 25. I mean, could not warring factions try something new before engaging in battle?

Try "flowers and chocolates." Try finding points of agreement. Initiate trade agreements beneficial to the other side. Ask the enemy what he would like you to change and change it. Ask him what the two of you could do together to bring peace; and call it his peace. Ask yourselves how many young lives lost is an acceptable number.

Tell him this: "I'm willing to work on it. I'm willing to try anything. I just don't want to lose you."

I will not lose another life.

Thomas Carroll

Perryville

Drug Costs

President's Clinton's latest theatrics against the pharmaceutical industry shows once again his lack of knowledge of the facts.

Describing as "unconscionable" the price of vaccines and other diatribes are obviously tactics to foist a national health system (socialized medicine) on an unwary public. The concept is an abject failure despite sweetened media rhetoric.

It so happens that one of the greatest cost factors in "high-priced pharmaceuticals" is the federal bureaucracy itself.

Some time ago, Richard Wood, former president of Eli Lilly Co., in testimony before the Presidential Commission on Federal Paperwork, indicated that government incompetence was a major factor in the increased costs of drugs.

He said, "We spend more time filling out government forms than we do on cancer and heart research combined. This industry spends over four times the national average on research, and the odds against discovering successful new drugs is enormous. Of every 100,000 drug candidates studied only 10 get to market and two return a profit."

With a ten-year investment of an estimated $350 million and 25,000 government forms to fill out each year, a new and perhaps life-saving drug is made available.

In addition, millions more are spent fending off cults, unprincipled lawyers and their clients and TV "scientists" whose main interest is fomenting trouble and anger through disinformation and falsification for profit.

Like welfare, more government will only add higher taxes and more cost to an already complex problem.

George Ruther

Hunt Valley

Medical Malpractice Insurance Needs Change

Dr. Marion Friedman's Feb. 20 letter exhibits considerably flawed thinking regarding medical malpractice insurance costs.

It would be a windfall for the doctors who are backed by millions of insurance dollars (and risk none of their personal money), if the relatively poor patient had to put up the $5,000 to $10,000 required in expenses for medical experts and legal investigation, which the patients cannot afford.

The monetary advantage over the patient is always overwhelming. The doctor has unlimited insurance money available.

If the patient loses the case, the doctor would have the patient bear the costs. But shouldn't the doctor pay personally the thousands of dollars in expert fees and investigative costs to the patient, if the doctor is guilty of medical negligence (malpractice)? This would level the playing field.

The doctors and their insurance companies know that lawyers won't take a case, unless they can do so on a contingency basis, since the patient cannot afford to pay up to $150 per hour for hundreds of hours of case preparation and trial time. Without lawyers, the doctors realize, there would no longer exist an effective check on medical negligence.

A review of the arbitration verdicts against doctors reveals that even when the doctor loses at that level, the insurance company almost invariably appeals for a jury trial, doubling the insurance lawyer's costs and doubling the costs to the patient.

The system needs change, but not in the way suggested by Dr. Friedman.

David Judd

Baltimore

____________

Medical malpractice insurance is a license to steal.

We permit physicians to insure themselves against penalties for a criminal act. As a result, health care costs have soared, and we are being robbed by greedy patients, unethical lawyers, incompetent doctors, careless hospital administrators and insurance company executives.

As medical insurance customers, from whom malpractice litigants are stealing, we must find a way to turn it around. If medical malpractice is a crime, it is reasonable to ask if medical malpractice insurance should be legal.

In years before the invention of malpractice insurance, a physician thought to be negligent was sued in extreme cases.

But now suing for medical malpractice is such a good business that lawyers are paying for high-priced TV commercials.

Dr. Marion Friedman's letter referred to a Feb. 4 article by James J. Kilpatrick. She supported his article but added: "Much of medical malpractice as codified in present law is a terribly costly item to the patient, who ultimately pays for it, and an enormous stimulus to the practice of bad medicine."

Would it make sense to pass a law prohibiting medical malpractice insurance? It seems reasonable to expect fewer malpractice lawsuits once the reservoir of dollars from inflated premiums dries up.

If medical malpractice is a crime, let the criminal courts, a federal medical licensing commission and the American Medical Association dispense appropriate penalties for medical incompetence.

William M. Waters

Millersville

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