Depressed mothers can lose the ability to control their...


January 15, 2002

Depressed mothers can lose the ability to control their acts

Since when does being a professor of communications qualify someone as an expert on psychotic depression? Indeed, the column by Richard Vatz and Lee S. Weinberg about Andrea Yates demonstrates irresponsible communication at its worst ("Mother must answer for her deadly choice," Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 7).

Mr. Vatz and Mr. Weinberg invent possible rational explanations for Ms. Yates' behavior, yet they fail to explain or even mention the testimony in the pretrial competency hearing, and her husband's interview on 60 Minutes, in which Ms. Yates is described as hallucinating, delusional and mentally deteriorating immediately before and after the killings.

No doubt, they omit this information because it undermines their argument that Ms. Yates is criminally responsible because "action almost always involves choice."

We do not know what the evidence in Ms. Yates' trial ultimately will show. Yet it is well-documented in the medical literature that a small minority of women suffer from severe postpartum depression associated with psychotic symptoms.

These women do, indeed, lose their ability to see the world in a rational way and to control their behavior. Without appropriate medical intervention, they can destroy their own lives and the lives of others they love.

Such severely ill people should be treated compassionately, not executed.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Janofsky


The writer teaches psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

I would like to know what qualifies Richard Vatz and Lee Weinberg to opine on whether Andrea Yates was mentally ill when she drowned her children.

Ms. Yates may not qualify as mentally ill under Texas law, but postpartum depression should be discussed by qualified physicians, not media or international affairs people such as Mr. Vatz and Mr. Weinberg.

Whatever the eventual outcome, Ms. Yates will suffer. But it seems to me there is much blame to go around - from her family to the physicians who failed to adequately treat her.

What we as a civilized people need to ask is why this tragedy happened and how it could have been prevented. Only then will this horror never happen again.

Ronni Pearl


Pope Pius, Vatican saved many thousands of Jews

The slanderous letter accusing Pope Pius XII of silence and "malevolent neutrality" during the Holocaust cannot go unanswered ("Vatican's outrage continues tradition of hostility to Jews," Jan. 8).

The writer doesn't have to take my word for it; simply seek out the writings of Jews such as Israeli diplomat and scholar Pinchas Lapide, who served as Israeli consul in Milan and interviewed Italian Holocaust survivors.

Lapide said Pius and the church saved 860,000 Jewish lives during the war, more than any other person or group. Or the writer could examine the statements of people such as Golda Meir, Albert Einstein or the Rabbi of Rome, all of whom heaped praise on Pius for saving Jews.

The writer has every right to disagree with the Vatican's comments on Yasser Arafat if he chooses. He does not, however, have a right to rewrite history to slander Pius XII, a holy and saintly man.

As for Pope John Paul II, no man has done more to further Catholic-Jewish relations.

Patrick Scully

New York

The writer is director of communications for the Catholic League.

Instead of a tax increase for schools, accept donations

Since 52 percent of those polled support raising taxes for education ("Voters back slots, taxes for schools," Jan. 9), I suggest that the state set up a special fund for those taxpayers who desire to pay more taxes.

This fund would be used only for schools, and there would be no limit on the amount a person could donate. That way those who think that money will solve our education woes will feel better for doing something about it. Those of us who think money is not the answer will not be burdened with additional taxes.

Anyone who thinks that he is not paying enough tax money is certainly free to submit additional money to both the state and federal governments. As for me, I believe that we already send too much of our money to all governments.

D.J. Myers


Keep DiBiagio's tenure as limited as his interest

It's time for U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio to "bag it." It is evident from The Sun's editorials - "DiBiagio withdraws from justice council" (Jan. 10) being the latest - that he has no desire to cure the many maladies of Baltimore.

Mr. DiBiagio may well be the new kid on the block. Baltimore will, however, be better served if his tenure is as limited as his desire to prosecute the crimes and criminals that affect the city's citizens each and every day.

W.C. Harsanyi


Focus on religious differences blunts sense of community

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