Letters to the Editor


March 24, 2003

State physicians should govern their profession

The Sun has chosen once more to weigh in on medical discipline issues, on which it clearly lacks understanding, by endorsing the attempt to lower the required standard of evidence from the "clear and convincing" standard, applicable to a variety of professionals in this and other states, to the monetary damages standard of "preponderance of the evidence" ("Doctor discipline," editorial, March 18).

The Sun is clearly uninformed in its understanding of the most basic elements of this issue.

For example, the editorial asserts that the "clear and convincing" evidence standard is "the highest threshold of evidence." But as any reader of The Sun's crime stories would know, the highest standard is the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used in criminal cases.

The "clear and convincing" evidence standard, which has long been deemed appropriate by legal authorities for the deprivation of a professional's ability to practice his or her livelihood, is the intermediate standard between the higher penal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" and the lower monetary damages standard of a "preponderance of the evidence."

Although The Sun is correct that two-thirds of states use the lower preponderance of the evidence standard, many states use "clear and convincing" as the evidentiary standard. At least one state does so because of a judicial finding that the "clear and convincing" standard is constitutionally required before a professional license can be sanctioned.

And, most devastating for The Sun's case, according to the most recent statistics available, states that require the "clear and convincing" standard or a higher one averaged a higher number of disciplinary actions than states that used a lower standard.

The Sun also falls back on the dubious assertion that there is something wrong in that most of the members of the Board of Physician Quality Assurance (BPQA) are members of MedChi.

But we think it entirely appropriate that most of the physician members of the BPQA are concerned enough about the public role of their profession to belong to their professional society.

We think a physician ought to be able to belong to his or her professional organization without facing the charge that he or she is somehow disqualified from participating in the governance of the profession.

And we think The Sun owes Maryland citizens and the legislature a more accurate analysis of this issue.

Dr. Catherine Smoot-Haselnus


The writer is president of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.

Discipline of doctors does need reform

As a physician who has nothing but contempt for the way physicians are not disciplined for mismanagement or gross negligence for patient care in this state, I think state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger's push for new legislation regarding oversight of the Board of Physician Quality Assurance is long overdue ("Medical reform locked in fight," March 17).

Having filed a complaint with the board against a colleague three years ago and still not heard from the board about it, I think this system gives new meaning to the adage, "the fox guarding the henhouse."

Sometimes a bad doctor is a bad doctor.

Dr. Joel H. Hassman


Drop the concept of Palestinian state

The Sun's article "Prime minister post diverts power" (March 19) stated: "President Bush said last week that installing a credible Palestinian prime minister with real powers is a prerequisite for unveiling a U.S.-backed `road map' to Palestinian statehood."

With all due respect to the president, I have to disagree with the priorities here. Shouldn't dismantling all suicide bombing training camps be a more important prerequisite for Palestinian reform before any plan for statehood is endorsed?

Indeed, I think the whole statehood issue should be dropped. To expect tiny Israel to chop itself in half and form another state within a reduced sliver of indefensible land for a group of people who still hate and despise it is absurd.

It's like inviting Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein into America and giving them a state of their own right next to Washington so they can get a closer shot at us.

Barbara Ann Bloom


War on Iraq is morally wrong

This war is wrong, most importantly as a matter of principle and morality.

I agree with Pope John Paul II and a vast array of faith leaders that without proper authority to invade another country, and in this case that means the approval of the United Nations, this war is illegal, immoral and unjust.

Dick Ullrich


A time to fight for our freedom

Thank goodness we finally have a president who has the courage of his convictions and will do the right thing, even if it is not always the popular thing. I am so proud of President Bush for having the morality to do what we have long needed to do in Iraq.

We must rid the world of Saddam Hussein, and his crimes against humanity, his weapons of mass destruction and his support of Palestinian suicide bombers and other terrorists.

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