An inaugural oath for free citizensThe Inauguration, when...

the Forum

January 13, 1993

An inaugural oath for free citizens

The Inauguration, when thousands will watch President Clinton take the oath of office, may be a good time for free citizens of a great democracy to become more than spectators at a performance, to acknowledge that the president alone cannot work the miracles we demand and expect, and, therefore, for us also to take an oath of our own, perhaps along these lines:

"We pledge, Mr. President, to try harder to be good citizens, to treat each other (especially those who serve us and those who need our help) with decency, respect and kindness, to seek justice and to love one another.

"We pledge to try harder to assume responsibility and accept a share of hardships if necessary, so as not to bequeath them to our descendants.

"In this new year and new era, with a new generation of new leaders with new ideas, we realize that we have a great opportunity, and we pledge to try harder not to blow it."

It is not enough to stand watching the president, cheering and booing him, praising and blaming him, exalting and excoriating him. We have to get off the sidelines and into the game. It has to be a team effort.

Jack L. Levin

Baltimore

Taxol debate

Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee on research funding for the National Institutes of Health in September, Elaine Forman told the committee about her experience with the anti-cancer drug taxol.

"I'm Elaine Forman. When you look at me, I think you see a healthy woman. And I do feel well. But were it not for the National Institutes of Health taxol program I probably would not be here. I would not be alive today."

Taxol was used for experimental refractory (unresponsive to conventional therapy) ovarian cancer when Mrs. Forman was treated. Results of trials also suggest that taxol could play a role in treating other types of cancer, possibly including advanced breast cancer.

Taxol is not considered a "cure" but it can alleviate symptoms and give patients additional months of life. Right after Mrs. Forman testified, taxol was approved by the Cancer Institute for wider use.

Unfortunately, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland refused to fund the administration of taxol, ruling that the drug was experimental and that past funding of experimental administration of taxol was a mistake. (The drug was provided free by the manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb: the only cost was for administering the drug.)

Cancer always has a chance of returning, but high-dose taxol reduced the size of tumors in patients with advanced ovarian cancer by more than 50 percent in half of the patients treated.

Seven of the 44 patients had complete disappearance of their tumors based on X-ray examination, according to Dr. Gisele Sarosy, presenter of a report on taxol research to the American Society of Clinical Oncololgy in San Diego in May 1992.

With Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland's ongoing history of shoddy coverage, excesses in pay and benefits for top executives, false reporting of assets, excessive expenses for questionable consultant fees and other abuses, it would seem that to deny benefits that could save the lives of Maryland wives, mothers, daughters and sweethearts is beyond the pale.

Add to this the testimony of Gov. William Donald Schaefer at a meeting of the Board of Public Works on Dec. 16. In that meeting Gov. Schaefer blamed Insurance Commissioner John O. Donaho for shaking "the confidence of all of us in Blue Cross and Blue Shield.''

Once again, Governor Schaefer has misread an issue to such an extent that his comments border on the bizarre. What he should have done was demand that Blue Cross and Blue Shield get its act together in health protection for the state of Maryland.

Michael J. Davis

Essex

Israel's 'cruelty' toward banished Arabs is an outrage

As a Christian pastor who shares deep respect and honor for the faith of Israel, I am outraged by the recent treatment of refugees by the government of Israel.

For years we have listened in great empathy to the stories of the Holocaust and the deaths of millions of Jews in Germany. Now we are treated to the unbelievable story of these same former victims driving out of Israel (blind-folded) a group of Arabs as a punishment for the crimes of some of them against the Israeli government; driving them to Lebanon, a country which did not want them in the first place.

Then to top off the cruelty, shelling them when they had no place to go and doing this while they are living with no food and water in a land that has temperatures around zero degrees. Even prisoners of war or those who are the worst enemies of the state have better treatment than that.

Such cruelty one might expect in Iraq but not in a civilized state which the United States government has been supporting for years and just recently at great sacrifice to the American people. How can we continue to support Israel under such circumstances?

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