Organ donation wrings solace from tragedy

I thank reporter Diana K. Sugg for her poignant reminder of the importance of organ donation ("Celebrating a life, honoring one lost," Feb. 15).

In the face of grief, a donor's family is asked to perform a noble act of humanity. Consent brings continuity and perhaps some degree of solace from sparing another family such a tragic loss.

In 2003, more than 80,000 people in the United States will await life-saving transplants - and 2,000 of them are children. And this year alone, more than 6,000 people will die waiting for a vital organ.

One donor can save many lives. Almost anyone can join an organ donation program, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. And enrolling is easy.

The field of transplantation continues to yield improved success and promising new treatments. For example, many people with Type I (juvenile) diabetes who have had pancreas or islet cell transplants are now insulin-free, and have arrested the progression of tissue damage that so often leads to kidney failure, heart attack and blindness.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the short supply of donor pancreases allows only 1 percent of the population with Type I diabetes to receive a transplant.

In Baltimore, we are fortunate to have, at both Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland hospitals, some of the finest transplant surgeons in the nation. I urge these institutions and every other hospital and school of medicine, public health and nursing to promote organ donation.

Margaret Conn Himelfarb


The writer is a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Medical culture isn't the reason for errors

The Sun's article "Reforms for patient safety listed as critical" (Feb. 21) implied that doctors could, if they only wished to, prevent medical errors but need a "cultural change" to do so.

In fact, physicians are appalled and upset when errors occur, and do their best to avoid them. But we live in an era of complex medical care, involving hundreds of people and machines.

The system changes that might detect and avoid errors are not simple declarations of good will. They involve the expenditure of funds that have been, over the years, moved to health plan and insurance plan profits and the administrative costs of dealing with a bloated and inefficient health care bureaucracy.

We don't need unfunded reporting requirements. We need to fund upgrades of information systems and computer links between hospitals, laboratories and physician offices, with safety systems built-in.

Then our good intentions will have a chance to succeed.

Dr. Steven Wolfson

New Haven, Conn.

Let the abused have their day in court

I support The Sun's editorial about the need to extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse ("Shielded from pain," March 3).

We need to focus on the victims. Child sexual abuse often leads to lifetime consequences. And 39 states have relaxed their statutes of limitations to allow victims to file claims at a later date.

Maryland needs to get in step with the rest of the nation to allow compensation for such terrible wrongs.

John Murphy


Pledge case tests our court system

Could there be a more simple test of the separation of church and state than the Pledge of Allegiance ("Court lets stand ban on Pledge in school," March 1)?

Why should I, a nonbeliever, be forced to invoke religion while pledging allegiance to the country I love?

We have again learned all too painfully in the past two years that neither a Western religion nor a Middle Eastern religion guarantees a moral path or protection for the innocent.

Only in our Constitution and court system is there hope for achieving that goal.

Christine Miller


If you want benefits, become a citizen

The article on 300 Latinos rallying for easier access to driver's licenses and an in-state tuition rate was interesting ("300 Latinos rally for bills in Annapolis," Feb. 25).

The article mentions that state law "requires aliens who have residence in a foreign country to pay international rates." But it seems to me that the answer to their problem is obvious - become American citizens, especially since, as this group states, "they live and work in Maryland" and want to "become productive members of society."

If they obtain citizenship, then they will receive its benefits. But it's time to stop having special allowances for persons who don't want to become Americans, yet want to get the benefits.

D. Keith Henderson


Less noise means better quality of life

Kudos to Kathy Hudson for raising an issue important to the life of the city ("Decrease the din of sirens, stereos to make city more livable," Opinion Commentary, Feb. 26).

Much is said about improving Baltimore's quality of life. But Ms. Hudson has clearly articulated a no-cost approach to making a significant improvement in city life.

And if other cities and municipalities can solve this noise problem, so can we.

Richard Pelletier


Dissent is foundation of our democracy

It's one thing to paint broadly, but quite another to use the wrong color.

Mona Charen paints anti-war demonstrators as Red ("The left assists the enemies of freedom - again," Opinion Commentary, Feb. 24), and as valuing "freedom and democracy less" because they "love peace."

The truth is that she should have used red, white and blue to paint these demonstrators, because dissenting opinion is the foundation of a democracy, not its bane.

Creating a single-minded view on these world-threatening issues is the real assault on our freedom. Yearning for a peaceful planet does not make one an enemy of the state, but rather a friend of life.

Dennis Kaplan


Shopping is no way to combat aging

The Sun's article "Here's an anti-aging strategy: Go shopping" (March 2) gives a dangerous "license to shop" by saying it prevents aging and exercises the mind. The emphasis on shopping to improve health ignores the problem Americans have with debt.

Most women undoubtedly leave the mall with more debt and a sweater that they don't need, thinking, "I already have a sweater. Do I really need another?"

This is not the sort of critical thinking that keeps the mental muscles healthy.

Americans already have a problem with shopping. The last thing we need to do is link shopping to better health. And surely the stimulation of mind and body can be achieved without going shopping.

How about taking a trip to the library or bookstore?

Clara Goldberg


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