Letters in the Editor's Mailbag

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), August 29, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Letters in the Editor's Mailbag

Byline: The Register-Guard

Krauthammer is cynical

Charles Krauthammer has outdone himself. His opinions of doctors' motives and the uselessness of living wills are unusually cynical.

According to Krauthammer, under a health care bill being considered in Congress, doctors would give end of life counseling "whether or not the patient asked for it" because the doctor's fee would be reimbursed by the government. He implies that doctors would therefore go "on and on" about a "fantastic new million-dollar high tech gizmo" to prolong a patient's hopeless condition. Later in the piece he suggests that "white coated authorities" will counsel us toward letting go because the objective of health care reform is to cut costs.

Krauthammer debases his own living will. He considers it more literary than legal, its basic message being to "pull the plug" if he has a hangnail. He argues that end-of-life directives will be worthless because doctors will wait to ask what we want until we are in intensive care with pneumonia (his example). He clearly implies that doctors are less bound by written directives than lawyers: The directive he signed will not be relevant at the time of medical need, but the same paper will become "essential" when family wants to get at his money.

Hyperbole, hypocrisy, and exaggeration are typical of Krauthammer's columns. Impugning the integrity of medical professionals is beyond the pale.



Lessons from child development

Years of study and experience in the field of child development have convinced me that one of the best ways to teach children to hit others or seek retribution or be generally disposed to violence is to use corporal punishment on them. Set limits, talk, teach, show patience but firmness, establish sanctions, yes. Hit them, no. Until recent years, the United States has adhered to similar principles in dealing with captives in war.

But now Dick Cheney, Antonin Scalia, and others insist that torture is okay - needed, in fact. I wonder if they have read the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, The Geneva Conventions, the established work of the U.N. General Assembly and the International Red Cross, or the rule of federal law of the United States of America, all of which the United States government has helped to establish. All these entities or documents oppose torture with no exceptional circumstances.

Have they not considered the de-humanizing effect of torture on the torturer? Or the effects of supporting torture on the moral character and the international image of our country? Or the likelihood that if we torture other nationals, they will torture ours?

Convincing evidence exists that other methods of extracting information from prisoners work better than torture. A country that supports torture is self destructive and self defeating.



Insurance lobby wants tort reform

The recently published guest opinion piece stating that reducing doctor's accountability to their patients will somehow solve the health care crisis is completely insulting - especially in light of two new independent studies (Public Citizen and Hearst report) showing that preventable medical errors have doubled in the last 10 years.

Can you believe more than 200,000 people die annually from preventable medical errors? Yes, I did say preventable.

Let's talk about patient safety. The New England Journal of Medicine states that improving patient care can be as simple as following a checklist. U.S. doctors are still not required to do so. Wouldn't requiring doctors to follow a system of checks and balances truly be the best "defensive medicine"? Let's be clear. Medical malpractice rates for doctors are set by the insurance industry and for the insurance industry.

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Letters in the Editor's Mailbag


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