LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The discipline for Md. doctors isn't lax at all

If you offer spurious information, and a newspaper publishes it repeatedly, you can misinform lots of people. With loud amplification in The Sun ("Md. earns poor rank in doctor discipline," Sept. 5), Dr. Sidney Wolfe's Public Citizen's Health Research Group is doing just that with its annual rankings of state medical boards.

This is especially true with regard to Dr. Wolfe's bogus assertion that discipline of Maryland doctors is lax because MedChi, the state's medical society, plays a role in the process.

Here, again, are just some of the facts, which MedChi put on record in the General Assembly last year, showing why it is misleading to perpetuate Dr. Wolfe's rankings.

First, on the basis of Dr. Wolfe's own data (unadjusted for their flaws), Maryland ranks 11th among all states with regard to the number of serious disciplinary actions for substandard care.

Moreover, if one corrects for flaws in his calculations, Maryland ranks third nationally in the number of serious disciplinary actions based on alleged substandard care.

If a high ranking proves anything it is that, compared with other states, Maryland is not lax in pursuing substandard care, which is precisely the part of the process in which MedChi plays a central role.

On the contrary, by targeting cases alleging substandard care, the medical board successfully makes quality of care its priority issue.

Second, it is simply false to suggest MedChi "protects its own" in the process. To qualify as a peer reviewer, a physician must be board-certified in the pertinent specialty, have five years' experience in practice and, importantly, have no connection or conflict with the case under review. MedChi membership is irrelevant.

The percentage of reviewers who are MedChi members (68 percent) almost exactly tracks the percentage of our members in Maryland's population of practicing physicians. And nearly one-third of reviews are done by nonmembers.

Concern for the quality of medical care is the very reason for MedChi's existence.

Hilary T. O'Herlihy

Baltimore

The writer is the president of MedChi.

Hussein threatens everyone's security

In 1981, the Israelis bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor site, and the world was outraged. But imagine what the Middle East (and the world) would be like today if Saddam Hussein had nuclear capability at the time of the gulf war, or now.

Now, after Mr. Hussein has used chemical weapons on his own civilians, has attacked two sovereign nations (Kuwait with ground forces and Israel with scud missiles) and has not complied with inspections of weapons installations, some still believe we should wait for him to declare his intentions instead of pre-emptively striking Iraq. Hasn't our country suffered enough for our naivete about terrorism?

The time is now to be proactive in our fight for liberty for those who are oppressed, security for our allies and, ultimately, for the security and preservation of the world.

Marc Okun

Stevenson

Personal agenda behind war plans

President Bush's obsession with making war on Iraq strikes me and many people I've spoken with as a plan that fulfills three functions: It provides him a chance to wreak vengeance on the man who shamed his father; it provides a smokescreen that obscures his miserable domestic and economic policies; and it offers his buddies in the oil companies more opportunities to make money at the expense of the rest of this country ("Bush asks leaders to hear case against Iraq," Sept. 7).

Attacking Iraq would prompt a war that would cost untold Iraqi lives and significant American losses, destabilize the Middle East (which we all know needs no further destabilization) and cause environmental destruction.

For these reasons, I am against an attack

Barbara Joellenbeck

Baltimore

Union-busting is no path to safety

The Bush administration's attempt to curtail the union rights of workers in the planned Homeland Security Department is an affront to the memory of many of the heroes of Sept. 11 ("Senate opens contentious debate on Homeland Security measure," Sept. 4). Let the president tell the families of more than 300 fallen firefighters that their unionism was in conflict with their public responsibilities.

Mr. Bush's plan is union-busting, plain and simple. Depriving public employees of collective bargaining rights and a grievance procedure will not protect homeland security.

On the contrary, failing to provide channels for legitimate worker concerns will create a fertile ground for internal divisions in the new department.

Len Shindel

Baltimore

Case for reparations just won't go away

The moral case for reparations for slavery is a powerful one that will not go away ("Reparations movement only divides," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 30).

Those who believe that the soul-numbing effects of slavery vanished with the Emancipation Proclamation are deluding themselves. One hundred years of almost pathological prejudice, supported by government- and business-sanctioned segregation, followed the formal dissolution of slavery and compounded the human and political misery of a people first used as work animals and then summarily pushed aside and reviled.

There is no man alive -- much less an entire race of people -- who, when forced to endure such a history, could survive unscathed.

As a white man who is neither wealthy nor greatly accomplished, I still understand how I have benefited financially and socially from slavery and the racist frenzy that followed emancipation.

It's not a comfortable feeling, but it's a fact I clearly understood even as a child.

Kenneth Hudson

Catonsville

View of depression takes a heavy toll

As a lifetime sufferer from major depressive disorder, I am outraged by the stigma and false ideas people have about what is and is not mental illness and "insanity."

Should a person be punished for committing a heinous crime? Absolutely.

However, budget cuts have closed down public mental health clinics throughout the state. Also, limits on hospital stays cause many psychiatric patients to be released into the streets too early. A lot of these people do return to the hospital emergency room. And a lot of them wind up dead.

Michael J. Grzelecki

Lutherville

Only Angelos can get memorial done right

Edward Gunts' article on the Memorial Stadium monument controversy says it all -- no editorializing is needed ("Memorial makes the monumental minimal," Sept. 8).

And to Peter G. Angelos, I say: "Ask not what your city can do for you but what you can do for your city." Write a check and get that memorial done right, pronto.

Mr. Angelos is our only hope.

Paul Baker

Easton

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